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 www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen
“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.