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Highlands and Islands superfast broadband rollout on course to begin in 2013

12 January 2012

A planned rollout of superfast broadband across the whole of the Highlands and Islands is progressing according to plan.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise posted an open tender invitation for a partner to co-invest in next generation broadband in June last year, attracting interest from four bidders.

Three of those companies - Cable and Wireless, Fujitsu, and Commendium - are no longer part of the process, and HIE is now negotiating with BT as the sole bidder.

The project aims to deliver access to superfast broadband across all areas of the Highlands and Islands over the coming years, with work starting in 2013.

Detailed costs and timescales for each phase of the project will be the subject of negotiation. However, HIE currently anticipates that total costs are likely to fall somewhere in a range between £200m and £300m.

Funding will come from both the private and public sectors, and is expected to include a contribution from the European Regional Development Fund.

Andrea Rutherford, HIE's senior development manager for telecommunications, said: "This is a highly ambitious initiative, and the largest rural broadband project in the UK.

"It requires a technically proficient commercial partner to invest significantly in a superfast broadband infrastructure which will benefit businesses and communities across the Highlands and Islands.

"We are committed to providing best value for the public purse and to achieve this are working closely with the Scottish Government, BDUK, local partners and other superfast broadband projects.

"Broadband offers huge opportunities to rural areas in particular and we are determined to ensure that communities and businesses well beyond our main centres of population are able to benefit from access to high quality services."

If negotiations are successful, HIE anticipates signing contracts by August 2012.



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john russell 12/01/2012

Great news as living in Cardross Argyll we only get access to ISDN internet which comes through telephone lines, and with more users online at certain times the signal drops quite dramatically and sometimes none. Which for a business is quite bad. Will this be a cable fed connection?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 16/01/2012

Hi John, thanks for your comment. Wherever possible the proposed superfast broadband service will be delivered to customers either partly or wholly by fibre optic cable. The capacity of the links from local telephone exchanges to the main internet will also be significantly increased. Both these changes will mean that customers should experience higher speeds (both download and upload) and more consistent performance. Where fibre services are too expensive to install, BT is looking at other technologies such as wireless to deliver higher speeds.

John Russell 05/07/2013

We are now in the 7th month in 2013 and surprisingly no info coming from BT on Super fast Broadband, i think i will wait another year

M Malcolm 13/01/2012

At long last there appears hope for the remote parts of this region which have been entirely missed out by 2nd Generation broadband. We just about get 1/2Mb on a good day so hearing ab out superfast speeds of 100Mb in our cities announced by Virgin today seems a world away. I just hope as haven't seen the details of this that the rollout begins in our remote communities first and not the usual unimaginative plans that begin in our larger areas eg. Inverness and years later reach the remoter parts eg. Lochs area of Isle of Lewis where I live. The benefits bof this technology are now an essential part of both home and working life. Can we hear whether there is commitment to begin the rollout in the most remote parts currently underserved by broadband?

cyberdoyle 13/01/2012

If you are dissatisfied with what you have now then things will get worse. If BT have the tender they will put cabinets where people already have connectivity and offer the rest a satellite from their partner AVANTI. The only other thing they may offer is bonded copper pairs to get a meg or two to you. So much for a digital britain. As long as the incumbent telco gets the funding it stops anyone else trying anything new. And we all know copper phone lines can't deliver NGA. Just 'superfast' to a few near the cabs. Hard luck. Watch Cornwall. They fell for it too. The only way round it is to jfdi yourselves. Like B4RN are doing in rural Lancashire.

Somerset 13/01/2012

And what if a community does not have the resources to 'JFDI'? Clearly the speeds available over copper do what people want. Strange that there no complaints from Cornwall or industry professionals.

Sandy 14/01/2012

So the taxpayer effectively subsidizes what bt would have had to do anyway, just a bit quicker. BDUK has got to be the biggest con, and kickback to BT, that the UK has ever invented. What innovative solutions will BT come up with, that they should have done before. HIE really have had no option, but I think in the end they just gave up. Shame

desouzr 16/01/2012

It's a shame the other bidders have withdrawn, leaving BT to negotiate to their terms without any fear of not winning. However, if I could get FTTC or FTTP (like many areas in Cornwall under the BT/EU funded project) I would be ecstatic. I live in rural North Yorkshire so waiting until June to find out who has won the contract here and what will be deployed in my area.

Ap[prentice 16/01/2012

As long as the various Highland cities and towns get SFBB then HIE will be happy, as for the real rural areas BT will fall back on the "Oh it's too expensive" routine which is debatable knowing their past history. Nowadays a throughput speed (not sync) of less than 4Mbps is akin to dial-up mainly due to the type of content on webpages which makes them heavy to load if the speed to shift the data isn't there.

Kevin 16/01/2012

I would be delighted to get fibre optic broadband. Living in Oban, my download speed varies from a high of just over 5mb per second to near dial-up speeds at peak times. I have heard our exchange (along with Fort William) is getting upgraded at the end of March to 21CN which should give us up-to 20mb download speeds, and I hope this is a precursor to the roll-out of fibre broadband later in the year or into 2013. It would be great to see fibre rolled out throughout the Highlands and Islands, as there are so many communities cut off from the digital revolution at the moment. We have had several broadband outages recently, and this is obviously to do with the current outdated network creaking as more and more people go online. The sooner the new fibre network is in place the better.

Paul 25/01/2012

@ Kevin- You get 5 meg in Oban?!! I live in oban and the best i've had is about a meg...EVER! It's an absolute joke. With sky broadband using the BT lines, as soon as there's any volume we effectively are cut off and the bandwidth given to the BT customers. It's unbelievable. Why do BT still have this monopoly? And why are they not forced to conform to some sort of industry standards? Also we're still paying the same as everyone else for (up to!!???) 20meg. no discounts offered for substandard service, nothing. I was living in Glasgow 5 years ago and getting 20 megs then. 5 years ago!!! I can't see this getting any better, relatively speaking. Like some other folk said websites just get bigger and bigger and by the time we get fibre (if that even happens) there'll be some fantastic new fancy system in the city's and the sites'll get bigger still and we'll constantly sit at a dial-up equivelant. the only time i can really get any decent use out of the internet is at stupid O'clock in the morning so it's weekends only. Just another nail in the coffin of rural communities. what modern business can operate under these conditions?

Kevin 27/01/2012

@Paul I agree it is pretty shocking that we have to pay the same as those in the cities. Surely the connection should be graded, and you pay for what you get? I used to be with Talk Talk, which gave me an even slower speed than the 1mb that you currently get, sometimes below dial-up speeds! I left them after looking around on various sites ( and for better providers. So it's well worth looking around. Here's hoping fibre will make a difference, but as you say the net will have become even more data heavy by then, and we will no doubt be stuck in the slow lane yet again!

Gordon Spence 09/07/2012

@ Kevin. BB is priced per area. There are 3 main forms of BB. Ipstream which is 10 years old, ineffective and in rural parts, WBC, and SMPF. The SMPF is the best option, I believe this Cable and Wireless. For example, you might see a BT newspaper advert saying BB from 8.00 p/m. Once you call to "accept" this they run your postcode and see that Fort William is on antiqued BB for example and the cost rockets. Hope this helps. I speak with a number of people per day unhappy there is no "blanket price" as there is in Virgin Media Cable areas. Not to mention the fibre-optic in cities do not require a telco line, thus saving on costs.

Jim 27/05/2012

That was January. This is May. Where are we now, exactly?

Gordon Spence 09/07/2012

After running some checks the Exchange in FTW is currently being migrated from IPstream to WBC. This is due to complete in about 3 weeks, and has a stablisation period of 7-10 days. I myself live in the Glasgow region with 50MB. I remember the days of living on FTW High St. (about 200 metres from BT excahnge at Police Station) and getting 2MB with only one active device!

Gordon Murray 17/07/2012

Yeah I live in Gress and we have an issue of having aluminum in parts of the line. Will this be taken away and completely replaced, does anyone know?

Kevin 28/08/2012

OK it's now nearly the end of August, and there is no sign of any impending announcements from the HIE on the finalising of contracts with BT to bring superfast broadband to the Highlands and Islands. So where are we now with the BT contracts and are we any closer to bringing superfast broadband to our part of the UK? Thanks.

mary 13/06/2013

Where can I find a copy of the planned broadband rollout plan?

Alex Binnie 22/07/2013

I currently live in Inverness and according to BT Openreach the exchange is enabled for FTTC(fibre to the cabinet) and on checking with BT openreach it would seem that I cannot get superfast broadband as I am on what BT call an EO line (exchange only) which is connected directly to the exchange and is not economically viable to upgrade so therefore the prospects of me getting FTTP are extremely remote. So I wonder how many business and home premises are in the same situation, quite a few I imagine. A disgruntled taxpyer

john russell 28/01/2016

So, im back, 4 yrs on and no fibre optic, im told as we are linked directly to an exchange (Exchange Only) we wont be a priority and according to Digital Scotland there is no confirmed date, possibly a third of Cardross has fibre optics due to them being connected via a Green Box, over the last 3 weeks my speed teast have been fluctuating from 0.1kb up to 4mb, and the 4mb is only achieved at some points of the weekend, BT call centre in india say it must be our internal wiring but on speaking to neighbours they have the same issue, BT wont ever say its their network, bit of a shame this lack of customer service,

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 28/01/2016

Hi John, sorry to hear you are still having broadband issues. I didn't realise when you started commenting above that you were in Cardross. I'm afraid I can't be specific about your coverage prospects as your area is not part of the Highlands and Islands roll-out. It's covered by the Rest of Scotland project and you can check out their details at The two projects are drawing in as many people as possible into the green fibre boxes, including many on exchange only lines, so it may be there is still more coverage to come in your area before the end of the project in 2017.

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