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Fibre broadband coverage in the Highlands and Islands

01 December 2014

More than 15,500 homes and businesses in Moray, 12,000 in Highland, almost 2,000 in Argyll and more than 4,000 in Shetland can now order high-speed fibre broadband thanks to the £410M Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership.

The local homes and businesses – in 26 locations ranging from Lerwick to Oban and Cardross – are among more than 30,000 across the Highlands and Islands which can now access broadband services at speeds of up to 80Mbps*. See the latest list of places live and where work is starting in the next six months here.

And even more will be able to connect in the months ahead as engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, press ahead with the roll-out across the country. The Digital Highlands and Islands project, which will bring faster, fibre based broadband to 84% of the region’s premises by the end of 2016 is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Fibre broadband enables multiple users in a home or business to access the internet, download and share large files at the same time and more quickly than ever before. Many local families can now connect to the new technology for the first time, gaining access to new opportunities in areas like online learning and entertainment. It also helps businesses and organisations to diversify and expand their services.

A new interactive map is now live for anyone who wants to check how the roll-out looks in their area. When fibre is available customers can order through an internet service provider.

Announcing the milestone, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The rollout of superfast broadband will allow more households in Highland to connect to fibre broadband services for the first time, as well as giving businesses the opportunity to enhance their services.

“It marks another significant step for Scotland and the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership. This is the fastest roll-out of its kind anywhere in the UK, passing 150,000 premises across Scotland, including 30,000 in the Highlands and Islands, in record time – an engineering feat.

“We are still in the early stages, but already thousands of Scottish homes and businesses are able to take advantage and sign up. They simply wouldn’t have had access to high-speed technology without this ambitious partnership project.”

The Digital Scotland rollout consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the rest of Scotland. Both projects are being delivered on the ground by BT, which is investing £126m in the programme.

HIE’s Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, commented: “Given we had so little fibre in the Highlands and Islands the public investment in this roll-out will make an enormous difference to the broadband provision we have across the region.

“There are two main parts to the roll-out, the first is building a huge new network to bring fibre to places it has never been before, and then rolling out the local networks and connections needed to get it to homes and businesses. We are making excellent progress in building the main fibre backbone across the area, and access for 30,000 premises is a great start.”

So far, across the region engineers have laid almost 400km of sub-sea cable to link island communities, around the same again on land, and installed more than 100 new street cabinets which connect homes to the network.

Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “The Digital Scotland projects constitute a massive civil engineering challenge. A lot of the early work has been in planning, surveying and building central infrastructure.

“So it’s really a remarkable achievement to see fibre broadband services already reaching 150,000 homes and business premises in more than 120 communities Scotland wide. This is just the start for many of these locations as our engineers continue work on local upgrades.”

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The digital landscape of Scotland is going through a remarkable transformation. The UK Government is investing £120 million in superfast broadband for Scotland, and I’m delighted that more than 150,000 Scottish homes and businesses are already able to benefit from the work done so far.”

In total, more than three quarters of a million homes and business premises are expected to benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative. Funding partners include the Scottish Government, HIE, the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund as well as BT.

Alongside commercial roll-out, the Digital Scotland programme will see around 95 per cent of premises in Scotland able to connect to fibre broadband infrastructure by the end of 2017/18. Locations will be announced quarterly for the life of the projects as the fibre network expands.

Leave a comment

stuart Harvey 02/12/2014

Love the new map my sill showing my cab 3not ready yet but could be end of Dec or start of Jan

Janice Steggles 15/12/2014

We are in an area (Rosehall exchange) which has suffered with very poor service for years. It is particularly frustrating to see the ma not including us as even with any sort of solution at present. Bonar Bridge and Lairg seem on the list but not us. Our service is so poor that BT has even considered taking it away as they feel that it is not right to charge for a service that is this bad. Please can you advise when anything is likely to be reviewed for us.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 19/12/2014

While it is unlikely you will be reached by the main roll-out during this phase, bringing the fibre network closer to you makes it more likely that there could be another solution. It may be you want to talk to your community council, or other group to check local interest in a community project and then make contact with Community Broadband Scotland? They are helping many communities with projects to dramatically change the broadband available to them.

Christopher Gray 29/12/2014

BT Wholesale still say Superfast Broadband will be available on our exchange by the end of December 2014, which looks unlikely. Where can we get RELIABLE information about when Superfast Broadband will actually be available. Exchange is Portmahomack, cabinet 1.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 08/01/2015

Hi Chris, the maps are a guide and are subject to change. As you can appreciate this is a huge project building hundreds of cabs across the area - their timings do move about as there are many stages to getting them installed. Work has started in the Portmahomack area laying the main cable. Cab 2 in Portmahomack village is to be powered and tested but shouldn't be too far away. The cab you ask about - Cabinet 1 - which is located at Arboll, Portmahomack - caters for homes which are spread across quite a large area. We have been looking again at the local modelling - to maximise numbers and to ensure we get the best result. Whilst this will take longer than initially anticipated, in the longer term it should be of greater benefit. We do still anticipate services will be available this year. .

Christopher Gray 04/02/2015

Thanks for the update. I've since discovered that I'm connected to Cabinet 2, which I see is in situ now, but I do wonder when it will be live. It was installed over 3 months ago now, I do wonder what the delay is caused by?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 04/02/2015

There are many steps in the process - even after the cabinet is standing we still have to wire it, power it and then test it before it goes live. Currently this cab has a power issue.

Christopher Gray 12/07/2015

And 5 months on still no superfast broadband. Been waiting over a year now. Is there any RELIABLE information about when Portmahomack Cabinet 2 will go live?

Emma 27/02/2016

Despite being able to get fibre from cabinet 2 in portmahomack the line itself - from the cabinet to your home can only take up to 4 mbps ..... so why pay more for fibre until the lines themselves are upgraded????!!!! see BT's wholesale test results for this area.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 29/02/2016

Hi Emma, every home is different. The speed you get from the fibre cabinet will depend on how far you are away from it. Generally if the line to your home is less than 1km you will get superfast speeds of 24Mpbs and above - right up to 76 Mpbs for those closest. If you are up to 2km away you are likely to see an uplift. However, anything further than that and the speeds fall away quite sharply. it is hoped that, just as it did with ADSL broadband, the distance it can reach may improve as technology does. If you think you should be getting a better speed than the checker is showing - ie you are close to the cabinet - do get in touch with your provider.

Scott Hedges 17/01/2015

The BT website still tells us that the RFS date is 31/12/2014 however there is still no sign of fibre to the strathpeffer exchange, however BT tell us it will be available within 6mths. Work has been carried out for over a year between Strathpeffer and Contin but still we have no concrete information on when it will finally be available? When will the information be.updated to give accurate timescale?

Neil 21/01/2015

i've been connected to "Superfast" broadband since end of September 2014. Initially connected at 30Mbps down 2.4Mbps up which was great as 30 times faster than when on ADSL. Line then setteled down to 25Mbs down and was steady for 2 months. Then at start of December lost connection for 2 days and when it came back up it was synching at 11Mbs down and 0.8Mbps up. This affected the other 3 FTTC connections in the village as well. Engineer came out and said there is no fault and this is caused by crosstalk due to more connections to the cabinet. Anyway, the point of this post is that I wish you'd stop refering to FTTC as Superfast Broadband.

Scott Hedges 29/01/2015

Further to my previous post, I live in Contin and served from cabinet 1 of the Strathpeffer telephone exchange, from June 2014 we were informed that Supefast Broadband would be available within 6 months with both FTTC & FTTP having an RFS Date of 31/12/2014 as were many exchanges in our area including Muir of Ord. In the last 7-10 days all the checkers now say "Superfast Broadband will be available to your exchange within 6 months, the RFS date have now been removed!! Please could you comment on why we were told 6months back in June 2014 and had a RFS date, to now being told 6months again!! With no RFS dates? I feel that we have gone from mis information to absolutely no information. KN Networks being one of the main fibre contractors under this rollout have moved away from the Strathpeffer area and are currently laying fibre in Shieldiag and invormed me that the delay is with BT as they have laid all cable required to supply Superfast Broadband. Please could you comment on the apparent delay to numerous exchanges as it appears the fault lies with BT!.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 29/01/2015

Hi Scott. As you will appreciate this is a huge project across the region, and there are many stages to the process. We have to lay the main fibre network (this is done by the engineers you were speaking to who are now heading off elsewhere). But it isn't this main network that brings the services. After it's in place we have a number of steps to create the local access networks, build, power and test the cabinets all before they are available to customers. The dates of roll-out are a guide so that customers know we are working in their area, we are clear that they are subject to change, and the process can take a wee bit longer for many reasons. While we have areas slotted into 6 month cycles - it doesn't necessarily mean it will take that time to get to you. When the cabs are lit and tested the information will update. The build in Strathpeffer has started, and we hope to have live services soon. We will email you Scott for your phone number to see if we can provide any additional specific information.

Darren 29/01/2015

Do you have any update of the upgrade status of the Kinmylies / Mile End areas of Inverness (CAB 45 & 46)? BT have been consistently pushing back the dates since the start of 2014. The last date of Dec 14 is now gone and replaced with "Under Review". Any info you could give would be appreciated.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 30/01/2015

Hi Darren, I'm afraid these cabinets are not part of our project. BT is still working on its own commercial roll-out across our bigger population areas, but sorry we don't have any info on when you might see coverage.

John stewart 29/03/2015

Hi will strathpeffer go live for super fast broadband

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 22/04/2015

Work is ongoing in Strathpeffer - keep an eye on the checker or follow us on twitter (if you do it) @HIEdigital for updates on areas going live.

Donald Hadden 11/11/2015

Do you have any updates on the Portmahomack exchange, Cabinet 1? Initially, the Digital Scotland website reported that this cabinet would be upgraded by the end of 2014. I received an email from them last week offering congratulations that my area is now served by superfast broadband, and inviting me to upgrade. On attempting to do this, we are told that the exchange has not yet been upgraded, and should be completed by the end of 2015. Going by previous experience, I am not hopeful of this date!

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 12/11/2015

Hi Donald. Not sure why you received this email - you are quite right nothing is live yet - we have been having some difficulties in Portmahomack. Your cab is in planning - we wanted to re-look at its location so that we could maximise coverage i.e. for Inver too. I'm afraid you are right it may go into 2016 before the build for it happens. In addition we've had bother getting the village cab - cab 2 - built. The historic nature of the area means we've needed special permission to dig and will have to have an archaeologist with us. We're getting that sorted. It may come in pre-Christmas (providing we don't find anything dramatic). We're sorry that it's taking longer than we had hoped.

Mark Smith 08/08/2016

Hi, Any update on kinmylies status, been lead to believe it's due to access to power for cabinets, if so who is responsible for this. Mark

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 15/08/2016

Hi Mark, the Kinmylies area was not initially part of our project. However, we are now discussing with BT how it can be drawn in. This means the infrastructure still has to be planned. It may not be available until next year, but we are working to deliver it sooner if we can.

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