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More places in Highlands and Islands get set for a superfast boost

16 February 2016

More than 115,000 households and businesses across the Highlands and Islands now have access to their fastest-ever broadband speed through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project.

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

New areas seeing roll-out for the first time include Symbister in Shetland, Scourie in NW Sutherland, Benbecula on the Outer Hebrides, many parts of Skye, additional areas in Arran, Port Ellen on Islay and Glenlivet in Moray. (Full list of areas below)

To benefit from the faster connection speeds when they are available, 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 www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen

Engineers expect the first fibre connections to be available in many of these areas 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 more and more locations across the region. We are seeing increasingly smaller communities drawn in and are tackling some challenging geographies to reach people. Most recent places to see coverage include Weisdale in Shetland which now boasts the UK’s most northerly cabs, Helmsdale in Sutherland, and the first locations in Arran and Millport.”

Much 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 places in the Highlands and Islands, 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.”

Due to the current network topography and the economics of deployment, it is likely that not all premises within selected exchange areas will be able to access fibre-based broadband, and within villages drawn into the programme there may be staggered delivery. Further announcements will be made as more areas are able to access the growing fibre infrastructure.

Next areas where work is starting

Argyll and Bute

Aros, Inveraray, Kilmartin, Port Ellen, Strachur, Tayvallich

Arran and Cumbrae

Millport, Pirnmill, Sliddery

Highland

Ardvasar, Arisaig, Broadford, Dunvegan, Edinbane, Fort Augustus, Isle Ornsay, Kyle, Poolewe, Raasay, Salen, Scourie, Uig, Portree

Moray

Glenlivet

Shetland Islands

Symbister

Outer Hebrides

Benbecula, Garrabost


Leave a comment

 
Rory Duncan 16/02/2016

Exciting to see Arisaig on the "Next areas..." list. As an EO connected village, it has been frustrating to see the cables being laid out to Mallaig and passing by us so closely. Given the need to install new cabinets (assuming that the Arisaig exchange itself is not being upgraded to ISDN2, or have the ability to offer pairing?), is it realistic to hope that we might have the 'Superfast' product this year? Even a general indication would be helpful. Thnx!

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 22/02/2016

Hi Rory, yes, most of the villages we are covering now are Exchange Only. As you say unfortunately the core network itself is irrelevant to getting it to homes (other than the important fact of bringing the capacity closer) For local access the engineers re-route existing networks to create both a telecoms cab and a fibre cab. We draw in as many people as we can to get services. The news release here indicates that this work is starting in your area now - this USUALLY means there will be a cab live within about six months - but it depends on whether we hit any probs with the process. There are a few steps - getting the location agreed, getting the fibre spine or the power to it, getting it live and tested and then through to the ISPs. I hope you are able to benefit when it comes through.

Rory Duncan 06/07/2016

Hello again, Just following-up on our conversation from February - any news on the Arisaig exchange? The Digital Scotland map for the area has changed colour to "Coming Soon". Are any cabs (telecoms or fibre) operational yet or have there been any unforeseen issues? Thanks.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 20/07/2016

Hi Rory, nice to hear from you again. There are three cabinets in scope for the Arisaig area. One of these is already built in Arisaig and is waiting for power - but it shouldn't be too long? There's another in Keppoch which should be built this month, and then there is a third still in planning.

allan lamont 19/02/2016

I live about 1mile outside St Margaret's Hope's exchange in Orkney. Tel No 01856 831 421. Is it likely within the near future that I will benefit from super fast broadband? Can you give me any re-asurances, or should I go for satellite? Your help would be most welcome. Thanks.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 22/02/2016

Hi Allan, we have emailed you with more details. You have been drawn into cabinet 1 in St Margaret's Hope. While you are at the edges of the distance fibre services can reach - it looks like there may be a bit of an uplift available to you compared to your ADSL service.

Robert MacCallum 22/02/2016

The village of Invergarry is 'accepting orders' but only for about 20 houses and 1 business, very frustrating that it is all taking so long. We have a seasonal hotel business and it looks like we are going to be connected after Easter, if at all. Our cabinet was installed in October, then our status changed to accepting orders 12 days ago and I'm pretty sure that no-one in the village has a fibre based product yet.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 26/02/2016

Robert, thanks for getting in touch. We are having a look at this for you - think there may be a wee glitch with the systems. The cabinet is designed to cover as many people as possible - although there are distance restrictions in how far it can reach (about 1km line length for superfast speeds, up to 2km for an uplift) Hopefully more people will be able to order soon.

Robert MacCallum 26/02/2016

Thank you, I am due to have an install of 'faster broadband' at home on 3rd March so we will get the first indication of speeds, they are predicting 15 Mbps even though we are less than 1km from the cabinet. I will report back, with luck I will get to speak to an engineer too.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 29/02/2016

That's great Robert. Do let us know how you go. Yes, the speed will depend on the length of the line from the cab to your business - by the time it gets over the river and round to you it will drop a wee bit. Shame it's not as the crow flies eh? Hope it helps, it may be you want to discuss additional business services that may be available with your ISP to ensure you have the maximum resilience?

Robert MacCallum 04/03/2016

Our upgrade to BT Faster Broadband at home came through as planned yesterday, on the first day we seem to be getting around 13Mbps and 1.9Mbps up, ping at around 38ms, so a worthwhile improvement and the cost went down. Still disappointing for being less than 1km from the cabinet by my understanding of our connection path, crows just have 400m to travel. It leaves us back at square one at the hotel, looking at satellites and mobile data or trying to run cables to nearby houses which have a more direct connection to the cabinet. One final point, Openreach have been connecting houses that are more than 3km away to the cabinet, while most of the village still has EO lines, why bother?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 08/03/2016

Hi Robert, glad you are seeing an uplift - yes if only the distance was as the crow flies it would be great. For the business it might be worth checking whether a leased line would be an option for you? Re the village - we have asked BT to look at this, there may be a glitch. For those further away there is an advantage to being part of the network, we hope that in the same way as the distance ADSL broadband could travel as technology developed - so it might be for fibre too.

John Hedger 26/02/2016

Plans for 2016 are all great, but some of us around Loch Ness who were due to be connected in the later half of 2015 are still waiting. What's happening to Dores, Dochgarroch, Glenmoriston, Foyers, Glenurquhart,

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 26/02/2016

Hi John. Dochgarroch started - the Business Park is already live, Foyers and Dores are imminent, still working on Glenurquhart. Can take a wee bit longer - particularly where villages are covered by just one cab like Dores and Foyers - depending on what we encounter in build. Good news though - coming soon.

Andrew Oldacre 27/02/2016

Properties in Craignure, Isle of Mull, (three miles from where I live) are already getting superfast broadband. The exchange in question is Craignure Exchange; this is actually situated in Lochdon, less than 50 metres from my house! I cannot get superfast broadband because, as I understand it, the whole of Lochdon is connected to the exchange directly (EO line). Not a lot of use to me until someone comes up with a solution for EO lines. In the meantime (as a webmaster) I'm stuck with an upload speed of 0.25Mbps - it can take an hour to upload even a modest website.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 29/02/2016

Hi Andrew, Sorry to hear you are not being drawn into the programme as yet, we are continuing to look at ways to reach further. You are quite right that the exchange buildings themselves are less significant in this roll-out - the services are delivered by fibre cabinets placed to reach as many people as we can. The problem is not that you are on an EO line (about half of our programme draws people previously on EO lines into new cabinets) it's that you are just a bit too far away from your nearest cabinet to benefit.

Andrew Oldacre 29/02/2016

So the nearest cabinet is in Craignure? "ways reach further" you said. Lochdon is already infinitly closer to the exchange than any part of Craignure!! What are you going to offer Lochdon and when?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 02/03/2016

The fibre network in local areas is completely new and doesn't use the exchanges to deliver services to people's houses. That said, the great news is that a second fibre cabinet for the area is planned for later this year. Engineers will re-network local EO lines into a new copper cabinet which can then be linked to a fibre cabinet. These cabs are likely to be placed near to the exchange building at Lochdon.

An irate Invernesian 01/03/2016

I am please to see so many remote locations on the to do list, I'm sure it can't come soon enough for those who live in those areas. However, I would like to know about another specific exchange only area called Inverness town centre (yes believe it or not, the town centre of the capital doesn't have fibre yet!), it has been more than three years since fibre started rolling out here and yet there is still no sign of anything happening despite repeated assurances from HIE that it will be done. I've been told on many occasions that "it should be sometime in the next few months", but that excuse started sometime back in 2013/2014 and we are still waiting. No doubt in another six months or so I'll still be sitting here waiting and moaning on websites about the lack of fibre here, it would be nice if HIE/Openreach could actually commit to something and give us some realistic dates instead of fobbing us off for years on end.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 01/03/2016

We know that everyone across the region is keen to see faster broadband. More than 8,000 premises in Inverness and Culloden have already seen new fibre services become available. Businesses in Inverness centre can access high speed leased lines if they need them. The build work has started at the exchange in Inverness to build new cabinets for some of the premises like yours which are still linked to the exchange.

Simon Venn 10/03/2016

While it is great to see so many places getting a new service, it increase the frustration of residents like myself who are 4 miles from the cabinet which has been enabled for faster broadband. At the moment I get less than 1mb so can just run e-mails ect with no sign of any support or assistance. I understand that the geography of the highlands can be an issue, and sure I am 800ft from sea level but the terrain is not what could be described as challenging in any way. So why am I am all the other houses en route from edderton village being left out? I do not expect fiber optic but at least to have a speed and service that I can use, bearing in mind that this is now classed as a household utility. Would anyone expect this service for gas or electric now. Remember I pay the same as people with a full service !!!

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 18/03/2016

Hi Simon, unfortunately the fibre and the existing broadband networks are entirely separate - the roll-out can't directly impact on existing ADSL services. The current roll-out is designed to reach as many people as possible - and is doing this by reaching clusters of homes. We do understand how frustrating it is to be just too far away from this first phase of roll-out. We do hope to reach further in future phases or to help communities find alternative solutions.

John Anderson 10/03/2016

I am just wondering when we will get superfast broadband. We were promised it for the summer of 2015 then before the end of 2015 but it has not arrived yet. An accurate update would be greatly appreciated.

John Anderson 10/03/2016

I should have stated "in Connel" in my comment a couple of minutes ago.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 18/03/2016

Hi John, We do try to give realistic dates for roll-out but sometimes we hit problems. In Connel I'm afraid we have had some significant problems getting the fibre spine to you - not least in getting it over the Connel Bridge. This has now been resolved and we are doing our best to get the new services to you soon.

John Campbell 05/04/2016

The reality is though that the cable has been across the bridge for some time now. Its ages since any Openreach work has taken place in Connel. And still no expected date, other than the usual perpetual 'within 6 months'. It's also becoming increasingly apparent that the strategy is to connect 1 cabinet in a given area then proudly announce that 'Superfast Broadband has reached ......'. Conveniently forgetting to add that only a small percentage of that area is actually able to connect. I also wonder whether BT openreach have intentionally slowed the roll out now they've pulled in the public's money for the fibre spine. Now they're on the difficult bit (connecting people) the pace has slowed as there is little financial gain for BT with fibre vs ADSL. They could also be slowing down and waiting to see where G Fast could be introduced. Either way, the openreach vans that seemed to be everywhere when the cables were getting pulled in have disappeared.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 07/04/2016

Hi John, the roll out hasn't slowed - we are pushing on across seven local authority areas as quickly as we can - and access to fibre has now reached 70% of the total premises in the region. I know this is little consolation for Connel - where we haven't managed to get it in as quickly as we had hoped. The good news is that Cabinet 1 for N Connel is in final stages of testing, another cabinet is coming soon to draw in the first Exchange Only customers, and there are additional plans for up to three more cabinets in the area later. (the contract runs until the end of the year)

Lee & Lesley Alen 11/03/2016

Any idea when the smaller exchanges in central Sutherland, Highlands are likely to be upgraded ie Merkland, Altnaharra . 1/2 mb is very difficult to cope with running a B&B and on line shop when your on a small exchange.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 18/03/2016

Hi. I'm afraid the Altnaharra exchange area is not part of the first phase of roll-out. The roll-out is designed to reach as many people as possible - but there are some areas which we can't reach yet within the current budget and technology. There are a couple of options open to you - with speeds below 2 Mbps there is a voucher scheme for satellite, and you can also contact Community Broadband Scotland to see if they can help. If you need more info on these you can contact us at hidigital@hient.co.uk

Matthew Green 28/04/2016

I live in Inverness, connected to cabinet 65 on the Inverness Machdui exchange. These houses are of a relatively new nature, yet receive speeds which are less than 2mbps. The fibre upgrade has constantly been delayed in this area and it is getting to the point at which it is becoming almost unusable. Why has the work not begun?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 29/04/2016

Hi Matthew. Cabinet 65 isn't part of our Digital Scotland contract. It is a commercial cabinet being delivered by BT without public investment. It will come through, but sorry we can't advise on the timescales.

Chris Hinde 08/06/2016

I agree with Matthew, it is hugely frustrating, I am in Holm Farm Road and also connected to cabinet 65 and have been in a brand new Tulloch house for 5 years on a speed of 1mb/s! ! As someone who works from home regularly this is ridiculous especially as the cabinet down the road (500 yds) has been FTTC enabled for over a year now. What exactly is a commercial cabinet ? And how can the whole of the Holm farm area get this sorted out?? Also worrying is that, as of today, the openreach where and when website now says cabinet 65 isn't even in bt's scope now when last month it was due for upgrade by March 2017 ??

I macdonald 05/05/2016

BT openreach by-passed our area and left it to HIE to do the upgrade, since nothing has happened yet I expect it has been put to the bottom of the list again. Because we have been sidelined shouldn't we receive a reduction in service charges as everyone around can get a better service for the same price?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 06/05/2016

Thanks for getting in touch Mr Macdonald. The publicly funded roll out is continuing until at least the end of 2016, so there is still coverage to come. Unfortunately we won't reach everyone in the current contract, but if you'd like us to check your details we can do so. Please email hidigital@hient.co.uk .

Mandy Tevendale 10/05/2016

Good to see Superfast in Mallaig but it does not seem to be in Morar yet- although it goes within 150 yards of my house. When is this likely to happen? They keep saying soon, but soon never seems to arrive. Thanks

james hutchison 10/05/2016

Hoping to see the canisbay area on here soon. Moving from the south coast to the north coast its crazy how far behind the internet and indeed normal mobile signal is behind.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 16/05/2016

Hi James, start of work for the John O'Groats area was announced in our more recent release on the 25th April. We'll be reaching as many as we can between now and the end of the year. Service and speed available is dependent on being drawn into a new fibre cabinet and the distance a premise is away from it.

Mandy Tevendale 25/05/2016

No reply to me regarding Morar / Mallaig

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 26/05/2016

Sorry about that Mandy. there are two more cabs planned for the area - one of these is for Morar. It is a cab that is drawing in lines that are currently connected to the exchange so requires a network re-design. It is at survey stage just now which means the engineers are identifying where the cabinet will be sited. Once build work starts it usually takes about three - four months. If there are no problems with it, should be through by September

Mandy Tevendale 22/08/2016

Any update on this? With September just around the corner I was expecting to see work going on in Morar to make this happen. Thanks

Mandy Tevendale 26/08/2016

Update on Morar?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 29/08/2016

Will check with our BT colleagues and come back to you Mandy.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 30/08/2016

Hi Mandy. We have checked with our BT colleagues and the Morar cabinet is likely to be placed at the end of September. From there it can take a wee while just to go through the various processes - getting the fibre to it, powering it, testing it and getting it into the databases for the internet service providers so that you can order it. We expect it'll be available before the end of the year.

Barry 11/05/2016

Still don't see any mention of Kinlocheil Exchange! Can you provide an update please.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 16/05/2016

The current roll-out will see some limited 'fibre to the cabinet' coverage in Glenfinnan by the end of the year. There is a community led project providing wireless broadband in the area, with speeds of 20Mbps upload and download. It has been supported by CBS. There are more details at www.locheilnet.co.uk

M Craven 02/06/2016

Never seem to hear anything about expectations for the Gorthleck exchange!! Anything likely to happen soon???

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 06/06/2016

Hi, yes, good news. Work is due to start imminently on a new fibre cabinet in Gorthleck. It will draw in some of those in the village currently attached to the exchange. Usually takes about three-four months from start of build - need to re-network, build, power, test and then put through to the providers so that folk can order. We've had a bit of bother with getting power to the cab in Foyers, but hope to get that sorted soon too.

Michael Rosedale 16/06/2016

Berneray was estimated to have service Jan - June 2016 it is now expected July -Dec 2016 can you advise if the cable is coming across from leverborough which is now live or from benbecula which has been started? What phase towards this is presently being worked on. Kind regards and many thanks for tackling a difficult task.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 21/06/2016

Hi Michael, we are planning to bring services to Berneray via 'Wireless to the Cabinet' - which we are using in a few places in the region. It won't make any difference to customers as those connected to the cabinet will get services in exactly the same way. We hope you'll see some progress by the Autumn.

Cathy M. 10/07/2016

Hi HIE, information previously said June 2016 for Benbecula as well, and now it says Dec. Does this mean there are issues and the date will be pushed back yet again? Thank you in advance.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 20/07/2016

Hi Cathy, I'm afraid the roll out on Benbecula is taking a bit longer than we had hoped. Following survey work BT weren't happy with the results the initial plan was delivering. They have been re-modelling. We will see more cabinets as part of the local network - but they won't come until later in the year.

Maxwell Andrews 24/08/2016

Residents in the Gorthleck area are having issues with the internet disconnecting randomly during the day. Is the new fibre cabinet in the Gorthleck exchange causing these issues?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 29/08/2016

Hi Maxwell, it shouldn't be. The fibre network is separate to ADSL services. It doesn't actually work from the exchange - but from the new fibre cabinets. Speak to your service provider - if you have any further worries do contact us on hidigital@hient.co.uk

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