Coverage in the Shetland Islands from a high-speed fibre broadband network being delivered by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project is fast approaching half of the total number of islands’ premises.
More than 5,500 homes and businesses now have access. And future coverage in Shetland will make use of ‘wireless to the cabinet’ technology being used for the first time by Openreach in Scotland.
The first homes and businesses in Cunningsburgh, Hamnavoe, Lerwick, Sandwick, Scalloway, Sumburgh and Quarff can now order – and around 1,300 homes and businesses have already done so.
Roll-out continues in many of these places and work has already started to connect others including Brae, Bressay, Gott, Skellister, Sullom Voe, Vidlin, Voe, Walls and Weisdale. More areas will follow into 2016.
The £146m project for the region is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). The partnership investment is designed to extend superfast services to areas which would not have been reached by the commercial market.
The first phase of the roll-out across the Highlands and Islands runs until the end of 2016. By that stage the project aims to have extended coverage for Shetland to at least 76% of premises.
Work on the ground is being carried out by Openreach, the local network division of private sector partners BT. Funding is coming from the Scottish Government and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) as well as HIE and BT.
Stuart Robertson, Digital Director at HIE, said: “Almost 5,500 Shetland premises can now access the new network – this is around 48% of the total number of homes and businesses. People in the ‘live’ areas can check their phone numbers on the interactive checker here. If fibre services are available you do have to order – you aren’t just upgraded.
“This is great news for the growing numbers of people who can access the new services. We’ve still got a big job to do in the next year or so to extend this coverage to more than seven out of 10 of Shetland premises. It is an engineering challenge and we’re looking at ways to reach as many people as we can as we work in each project area.
“This includes using latest fibre technologies. For instance at Bressay we are working on our first use in Scotland of an approach called ‘wireless to the cabinet’. It involves installing a mast as part of the network to link Bressay to the Shetland mainland. We’ll use the same kind of technology to reach a number of homes and businesses in Symbister.”
“While we are working on the current roll-out we haven’t forgotten the harder to reach areas. We are already looking at how additional funding will help us reach further. Modelling work being carried out now will help identify what more can be achieved through the main roll-out beyond the 76% target.
“There is additional help available from our colleagues in Community Broadband Scotland to help communities the programme can’t reach look at other ways to access high speed services.”
BT Programme Manager Robert Thorburn, said: “We have made significant progress and although we have more to do, I am delighted that so many homes and businesses have ordered the service and are starting to feel the benefits of fibre broadband from the Digital Scotland programme. Moving forward BT is committed to working closely with HIE, Community Broadband Scotland and Shetland Islands Council to determine what the true art of the possible could be as we push the boundaries and embrace new emerging technologies from the mainstream network.”