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Fibre broadband goes further in Highland Capital

27 March 2014

It’s full speed ahead for online business today (Thursday 27 March) as fibre broadband rolls out at one of Inverness’ busiest trade and industrial sites.

Businesses from the Carse Industrial Estate are celebrating the news that they are amongst the first premises to benefit from publicly funded broadband rollout. Representatives this week gathered at local social enterprise New Start Highland to mark the first services going live.

They were joined by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) which leads on the £146m fibre broadband project for the region, by BT which is delivering it and by The Highland Council Leader Drew Hendry and Chairman of Planning, Environment and Development Committee Thomas Prag.

The businesses and homes at the Carse are amongst 3,500 properties which are now taking orders across Inverness, Culloden, Smithton and Milton of Leys delivered through phase one the project. This number will rise to more than 5,000 over the coming weeks as BT engineers continue to upgrade local cabinets.

Work has also started on the Fortrose and Ardersier cabinets.

Local businesses have welcomed the news. James Dunbar, CEO of New Start said: “As New Start Highland continues to develop and deliver transformational services across the Highlands our need for connectivity continually increases. Access to superfast broadband will further support New Start Highland’s ability to grow, enabling us to use the latest technology available.”

The Highlands and Islands rural broadband project has been hailed as one of the most ambitious in the UK. Fibre rollout taking place across the UK commercially would have reached no more than one in five premises in the Highlands and Islands. The project aims to achieve 84% coverage of the region’s homes and businesses and the project includes installing 20 subsea cables to island communities.

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: “There are already thousands of premises in Inverness which can now order superfast broadband through their internet providers as a result of the BT commercial rollout. Through our project we have been able to extend that to thousands more who would not have been covered otherwise. Over the next three years we aim to bring faster, more reliable services closer to as many people as possible right across our region.

“We are delighted to see the first cabinets go live and for some of our communities, including those on the outskirts of Inverness, we are seeing connection speeds soar from less than 1 mbps to anything up to 80mpbs*. The opportunities this presents to our businesses and communities is huge, changing everything from how we do business to how we deliver and use public services.”

Research points to significant benefits for job creation and economic stimulation. Over 15 years, figures indicate that fibre broadband could boost the economy of a typical town by £143 million, as well as creating hundreds of jobs.

The Highland Council Leader Drew Hendry commented: “Superfast broadband has the potential to be a real game changer for the Highlands providing high speed internet access for individuals, communities and businesses. It's appropriate that the first cabinet to go live is next to one of Scotland's leading social enterprises, New Start Highland which supports unemployed people back into work. Superfast broadband will be even more significant for our rural areas and we aim to ensure as wide coverage as possible over the coming rollout.”

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “This is great news for businesses and people living in the Highland Capital and its environs. The new upgrades delivered by this partnership, aligned with BT’s own commercial roll-out, mean that more than 20,000 homes and businesses in and around Inverness can now access the benefits this new technology brings. It’s exciting to see the Highlands and Islands as the focus of one of the largest civil engineering projects in Europe – a project which will boost local economies and transform the region’s communications landscape over the next three years.”

A partnership between HIE, Citizens Online and Business Gateway is working with businesses and communities across the region to maximise the impact of online activity. Advice, workshops and Digital Health checks have already supported hundreds of people across the region.

Notes to Editors

* These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not initially be able to access fibre-based broadband. Alternative solutions for these locations are being investigated.

Businesses who took part in the event marking the rollout of superfast broadband are:

  • New Start Highland: James Dunbar, Isobel Yates
  • Anderson Clark: Graham Clark, John Clark
  • Crown Vets: Melanie Vale
  • NorScot: Callum Grant
  • Dicksons: Jim MacKenzie
  • FedEx: Jim Sharp
  • Korrie: Andy Davidson, Donna Fraser
  • Skye Parcels: Josie Jamieson
  • Openreach: Peter Kennedy

 

Key facts about the rollout in the Highlands and Islands

  • High speed fibre broadband will be available to around 84 per cent of homes and businesses across the Highlands and Islands by the end of 2016.
  • The public sector investment is investing £126.4m through the Scottish Government broadband fund. That incorporates funding from BDUK and includes up to £12m from HIE’s own budget. BT is investing an additional £19.4 million in the project, on top of its commercial roll-out.
  • The project is about creating a vast fibre infrastructure across the Highlands and Islands that offers a legacy for generations to come. The new fibre network will reach the majority of premises in every local authority area.
  • The new backbone will install more than 800km of new fibre on land and more than 400km of subsea cables over 20 crossings to our islands.
  • Without this £146 million partnership, only 21 per cent of Highlands and Islands premises would have received a commercial fibre broadband service.
  • Our aim is to reach the most people possible within the budget available, but we are not just forgetting about the rest.
  • Every part of the region is important. The rollout timetable has been designed to build out as quickly as possible from existing infrastructure - currently centred on areas such the Inner Moray Firth, Fort William and Oban where BT has invested in commercial rollout.
  • The timetable has taken account of many aspects including existing infrastructure, technical and physical feasibility, and ensuring the people of the Highlands and Islands get best value for the investment.
  • Locations to be upgraded will be announced in phases as we progress. The first locations have been announced and further locations will be announced each quarter as the programme rolls out.
  • The reason for a phased approach is to ensure that the information we make public is as accurate as possible and we can provide a high degree of certainty.
  • BT will deploy widespread fibre to the cabinet, which offers wholesale broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps. Engineers will also lay some Fibre to the Premises, which offers speeds of up to 300Mbps.
  • For premises not currently connected through a cabinet but directly to the exchange, known as Exchange Only (E0), modelling is taking place to modify the network - including building new cabinets. Developments will be released as available, but this work will happen in tandem to the cabinet rollout and the first new cabinets are likely to be started before the end of the year.
  • We are not going to reach everyone in this first three year phased rollout. In some cases there will be people who can’t be reached even when their local exchange is upgraded. They will not be forgotten, and there are a range of initiatives already started to find solutions for people in hard to reach areas.
  • However, the new fibre backbone will reach deep into the Highlands and Islands and will make further expansion possible.
  • BT and HIE will be assessing new and emerging technology options through a £2.5 million Innovation Fund, with a view to extending faster broadband to the most remote places.
  • The Scottish Government has launched Community Broadband Scotland – a £5 million initiative that is delivering support to rural and remote communities to help them deliver their own broadband solutions. CBS has been designed as a one-stop-shop to provide community groups with advice and information.
  • A Start-Up Fund is also available to support delivery of demonstrator projects. These will act as case studies and generate learning, showcasing technical solutions and business models that can be replicated across Scotland.

Further info is available at www.hie.co.uk/digital and www.communitybroadbandscotland.org

Media contact: 

Kim Thain
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Office: 01463 244238
Email:  kim.thain@hient.co.uk

About Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy across a region which covers more than half of Scotland.

With around 250 staff, HIE supports hundreds of client businesses and social enterprises; strengthens communities, particularly in fragile areas; develops key sectors, and invests in infrastructure to create a more competitive and low carbon region.

Our priority sectors for growth include Energy, Life Sciences, Food and Drink, Creative Industries, Tourism, Financial and Business Services and Universities.

You can visit our website at www.hie.co.uk or follow us on social media: Twitter : Facebook : Linkedin : Youtube

About BDUK

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race.  The portfolio is comprised of three elements: 

  • £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
  • £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
  • £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services

Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.
For further information: www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

About BT

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

For the year ended 31 March 2013, BT Group’s reported revenue was £18,103m with reported profit before taxation of £2,315m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit www.btplc.com

 


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