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Engineers beat challenge of exchange only lines

10 July 2015

Engineers have overcome a major technical challenge to make high-speed fibre broadband available to thousands more homes and businesses in the Highlands and Islands.

More than 20,000 premises in dozens of locations are already benefiting from access to the technology through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout after months of additional planning and engineering work.

The homes and businesses were all served by ‘Exchange Only’ lines which run directly from the exchange to the premises – bypassing the usual road-side cabinets which are integral to the rollout of Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology.

To overcome the hurdle, engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, have rearranged existing network and laid hundreds of metres of new cable to reroute lines through dozens of extra road-side cabinets.

As a result, many local people in places such as Castletown, Kildary, Kinlochleven, Spean Bridge, Alves, Dufftown and Rothiemay are now able to access download speeds of up to 80 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20 Mbps* through their chosen service providers. A list of locations where Exchange Only lines are now ready for fibre service is below.

They’re among more than 80,000 Highlands and Islands premises now passed by the £410m Digital Scotland rollout.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Bringing high-speed broadband to homes and business premises that were once thought to be out of reach because they’re linked directly to telephone exchanges is another step forward. It’s good to see engineering solutions being put in place to overcome technical challenges and means additional fibre coverage for dozens of communities, with more to follow.

“Every week hundreds more households and businesses nationwide are being given the opportunity to upgrade their broadband to a faster fibre service through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout.  Residents can visit to check if they can get connected.”

The Digital Scotland rollout is being delivered on the ground by BT, which is investing £126m in the programme in addition to its commercial upgrades. In total, the Digital Scotland deployment now passes around 350,000 Scottish homes and businesses.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “Some areas in Scotland have a higher than average number of lines connected directly to the local exchange. This was often an advantage with first generation broadband over copper wires, but it creates additional challenges when it comes to the rollout of high-speed fibre.

“Our engineers worked out an innovative way forward to give thousands more residents the chance to become part of the fibre broadband revolution. It’s just one of the challenges in this highly complex engineering programme, but the roll-out is progressing well and passing around 5,000 homes a week.”

The roll-out for Highlands and Islands is one of the most challenging broadband engineering projects in the UK.

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital, said: “Around half of our region’s homes and businesses are linked directly to their local exchange so it’s great news that we’ve been among the first places in Scotland to benefit from this latest digital engineering innovation.  We know how important access to high-speed internet technology is in rural areas and many  homes and businesses can be part of the roll-out as a direct result.” 
*These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

While many premises in enabled areas now have access to fibre broadband, some may not be able to connect due to ongoing rollout, network topography and other technological factors. To be sure that you can get fibre broadband, check with your internet service provider.

The local locations where many people previously served by Exchange Only lines can now get access to fibre broadband via their service providers include:


Alness, Ardersier, Beauly, Castletown, Croy, Dingwall, Dornoch, Drumchardine, Dufftown, Edderton, Evanton, Fort William, Fortrose, Inverness Culloden, Kessock, Kildary, Kiltarlity, Kinlochleven, Muir of Ord, Spean Bridge, Tain, Thurso, Urray


Aberlour, Buckie, Cullen, Dufftown, Elgin, Fochabers, Forres, Hopeman, Lhanbryde, Lossiemouth, Rothiemay



Leave a comment

Roger Dolton 07/10/2015

This is a great achievement by the engineering group. I live on the island of Scalpay (HS4 3YG) will we be getting superfast broadband? and if so, when can we expect to be on line@

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 07/10/2015

Hi Roger, the checker shows that roll-out is scheduled for the Scalpay area at the start of 2016. This doesn't mean we'll reach everyone in this first phase but the project is designed to reach as many people as possible. We'll know more when we get closer and can see exactly where the new infrastructure is positioned. Your distance from this determines whether you will be able to access the service and the speeds available.

John 26/11/2015

I see bt are working on the road at achmore (hs29du) connecting the crossbost exchange however my postcode reports an EO line, reading this gives me hope that perhaps we would benefit from the fibre service afterall. here's hoping!.

Ian 04/01/2016

Our exchange - Strachur has just gone live for the lucky few that are not on EO lines - but whereas we had been looking forward to the hope of January-June 2016, our results on the availability checker now don't have any target... How far behind the main roll out will we likely be?

Duncan Campbell 12/01/2016

Live in Taynuilt(PA35 1JW) currently says I can't get infinity yet other households in taynuilt can. Can someone explain when it will roll out across the whole village please?

russell adam 17/01/2016

not sure if u can advise about my location but this is the most recently active thread i can find about this issue...... live on arran . FTTC now available in whiting bay but i have EO line. I would like to know if there are any proposals active to install a cabinet at the exchange, if other options are being actively explored, or if moving house would be the simpler and quicker solution

Robert McWilliams 22/11/2016

I live outside Beauly in Torgormack, despite Beauly being listed as location where exchange only lines qualify for fiber broadband the checker for by phone number still says it's not available. How can I find out when broadband will be available for my number?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 22/11/2016

Hi Robert, Fibre broadband is not available on exchange only lines, only from fibre cabinets. As part of the current project five fibre cabinets have been built in the Beauly area, designed to reach as many people as possible within the budget we have available. As part of the project we have re-networked many homes previously on EO lines into cabinets where possible. Unfortunately, they won't reach everyone in this first phase. Work has already started on what the next phase of roll-out will look like. A review will identify all homes and businesses which can't get superfast broadband. This will allow the Scottish Government to identify an intervention area where further public investment may be required. If in the meantime you have speeds of below 2Mbps you would be eligible for the 'better broadband' scheme which provides a voucher towards the costs of installation for satellite or wireless solutions where available.

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