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More fibre for Shetland

16 February 2016

More than 6,000 households and businesses in the Shetland Islands now have access to fibre optic broadband thanks to the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout.

And work is to begin over the next six months in Symbister, to add to the growing number of locations where services are live or build is underway.

New fibre street cabinets are already delivering high-speed services in parts of Hamnavoe, Lerwick, Cunningsburgh, Sandwick, Scalloway, Sumburgh and Weisdale. Work has started in other places across Shetland.

To benefit from the faster connection speeds, residents need to sign up for a fibre service with their chosen provider, as upgrades aren’t automatic. Customers can find out if services are available on the checker at

Engineers expect the first fibre connections to be available in Symbister by this summer* as Openreach, BT’s local network business, continues work on the ground.

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital, said: “It’s great to see the fibre cabinets coming through in locations across Shetland. Recent additions include the UK’s most northerly cabs in Weisdale. In Lerwick, a new cabinet reaching more than 400 premises has also gone live, taking the total number of cabinets in the town to 15.”

The latest Lerwick cabinet, and most of the work planned for upgrades are now on ‘Exchange Only’ (EO) lines, a historic legacy of the copper network which present unique engineering challenges. They run directly from the exchange to homes and business premises, bypassing the usual road-side cabinets which are a vital part of the fibre rollout.

Engineers have worked out an innovative way to integrate these lines into the fibre rollout, rearranging the existing network and laying hundreds of metres of new cables to reroute the lines through extra road-side cabinets, to overcome the hurdle.

Liz Mallinson, BT Scotland’s Fibre Broadband Director, added: “We’re excited to be bringing fibre technology to more of Shetland, especially as it involves overcoming the technical challenge in the shape of EO lines.

“We’re also urging local people to check if they’re among the thousands who can already get high speed services. There’s lots of competition in the broadband market, and people may be pleasantly surprised to discover they could be surfing at much higher speeds at a similar cost to their current service.

“Once you’ve tried superfast broadband, you’ll never look back.”

Leave a comment

Roy Longmuir 17/02/2016

When will customers with exchange only lines on the Bigton exchange get super fast broadband? Please advise on the plan to upgrade this exchange and if no plans are yet in place please explain why not. Thank you

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 22/02/2016

Hi Roy - the current plans do have a cabinet planned for Bigton as part of this year's roll-out. Work starting has not been announced yet (we try to give six months notice) so it is likely to be delivered in the second half of the year. I'm afraid it won't reach everyone who is on an EO line in the Bigton exchange area - but will draw in as many as possible. The conditions for getting a service are that a customer needs to be connected to a cabinet, and the speed of that service is then dependent on the length of line from the cabinet to the customer (anything more than 2km and it's unlikely there would be an uplift).

Roy Longmuir 25/02/2016

the Bigton exchange serves both Bigton and Levenwick and is situated at Channerwick - if there is only going to be one cabinet and that is situated at the exchange, then there will be pitifully few customers in either village within a 2 km range.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 26/02/2016

It may, or may not be located at the exchange. We do look to put cabinets in the best place to maximise those reached where we can. We know it's difficult that we can't reach everyone - we'll keep working on it as more funding/technology options come through.

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