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Hebrides broadband update

13 October 2015

The roll-out of the superfast broadband network for the Outer Hebrides is speeding ahead – with services coming online ahead of schedule for the first customers outside of Stornoway.

Homes and businesses in the first parts of the Back and Barvas areas can now order fibre broadband based services.  Although not planned for service until into 2016 the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project has been able to accelerate the start of the roll-out of the new services locally.

The way people are connected is through green fibre cabinets built in the communities. The location of cabinets is designed to maximise the number of people reached.

So far the areas connected and taking orders in the Back area include Outend Coll, Vatisker and Gress.  In Barvas, people linked into the first cabinet for the village (which has been built at the exchange building) are live. Further cabinets drawing in more people in both these areas are still to be built.

The £146m project for the region is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).  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, director of digital at HIE, said: “It’s great we have been able to bring in the first services for customers outside of Stornoway ahead of schedule.  People who can get the service should note that homes aren’t upgraded automatically – if you want a fibre broadband package you have to order it from an Internet Service Provider. Customers can check availability on their own phone numbers at

“There are almost 4,000 premises able to access the new fibre network in the Outer Hebrides now.  We’ve seen great early take-up in Stornoway, with extra capacity added to each of the cabinets already operating to ensure we can meet demand in the town.

“We’ll also see additional coverage for the town as the project draws in many of those currently connected directly to the Stornoway exchange.  Openreach are currently looking at exactly where new cabinets will be located to maximise the coverage but when confirmed they will be progressed through planning and the various build processes as quickly as possible. We anticipate it will be into the new year before services are available.”

“These are just the start of services for the Outer Hebrides and roll-out will continue through 2016.  In the coming weeks we’ll be providing an update on the places where people can expect to see Openreach building the network during the coming six months.”

The first phase of the roll-out across the Highlands and Islands runs until the end of 2016.  There were no plans to deliver fibre based services commercially to the Outer Hebrides so this project is transformational. By the end of the first phase the project will reach at least 70% of premises on the Outer Hebrides.


Leave a comment

ian bell 16/10/2015

how soon will it be before the exchange in balivanich goes live? as this is an EO Exchange and have no green cabinets will it take longer.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 26/10/2015

Hi Ian, thanks for getting in touch. Work in the Balivanich area is due to begin at the start of next year. Yes, it is a more complicated process where there are no existing green cabinets, but this is the position for most of the areas we are working in for the Outer Hebrides so has all been taken into account. Every three months we let people know where work is starting next - so keep an eye on the website at the start of the year to see how we are getting on.

stuart Harvey 23/10/2015

Hi Ian it will take longer as there got to reroute the network

Neil MacLean 03/11/2015

Although we are seeing work being completed up in Stornoway, why are we not seeing a similar level of work in the area that the second fibre came ashore from the mainland? Further, when will we see work commencing in Barra or, as usual will Barra be left until last?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 04/11/2015

Hi Neil, thanks for getting in touch. Roll-out for the Western Isles outside of Stornoway was scheduled for 2016 and the build for Barra is timetabled between July and December next year. We are pushing on as quickly as we can and have already been able to accelerate our plans to bring services in months ahead of schedule for Coll, Vatisker, Gress and Barvas. You can keep an eye on progress through the interactive map on our website - see . Barra certainly isn't last. The rest of Scotland project runs until the end of 2017 so there will be lots of rural areas in the lowlands still hoping for new services after many Barra folk are hopefully enjoying access to the new network.

Neil MacLean 05/11/2015

Thank you for your reply, however you only answered part of the question. It is my understanding that the fibre comes ashore in the Uists as well as in Lewis. Now, if the work has to commence where the fibre has made landfall, why has work not gone on apace as it has in Stornoway? In some respects you have vindicated the disquiet felt throughout the western Isles as to where such work starts and where the priorities lie. All the place names you mentioned with the exception of Barra are in Lewis. It is acknowledged that superfast has great significance to local economy so it would have made more sense to start in the most deprived areas of the Western Isles; instead and as usual Stornoway has to be first although it can be argued with some justification that there are many other areas that would have benefited more by being worked on first. Now could you explain the reasoning behind the decision to initially activate the Northern fibre landfall but not the Southern?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 09/11/2015

Hi Neil, I hope you are feeling re-assured by our latest announcement (see news releases) that work is starting now at Lochmaddy, and that we are also working in Harris and in Scalpay. The engineering programme for each local authority area has been designed to roll-out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Stornoway's main connection and local network was scheduled to go 'live' first in 2015. Having it in place has meant roll-out nearby - to some very small communities - could progress ahead of time. Likewise, we are now ahead of schedule in reaching other areas. The steps needed at key network locations including Lochboisdale, Harris and Benbecula to have them ready for local network roll-out are all on or ahead of schedule. We have a way to go yet, and work will continue for the whole of 2016, but we will keep pushing on as fast as we can.

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