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Ross-shire, Orkney and Sutherland join the fibre broadband roll-out

15 July 2014

Residents and businesses in areas of Ross-shire, Orkney and Sutherland are to join the growing number of people able to access fibre broadband in the Highlands and Islands as part of a publicly funded project.

Roll-out started in Buckie in Moray in February and 14,500 premises in Moray and Highland can now get better connected through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project. 

Led in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and delivered by private partner BT, Muir of Ord, Alness, Invergordon, Tain, Kirkwall and Stromness are among the latest communities where BT will begin upgrade work during the next six months.

There are additional locations in Moray, Shetland, Lochaber and Argyll. (see list below).

When the project roll-out is added to commercial roll-out figures, the number of premises currently able to get fibre based broadband across the region is around 50,000. Fibre broadband offers speeds of up to 80 Mbps*.

Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, said: “Today marks another important milestone for the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership. The scale of the challenge of delivering fibre broadband across Scotland is greater than any other part of the UK and indeed, much of Europe.

“It’s fantastic news that more communities and businesses around the country will soon begin to see the benefits of high quality digital connectivity, making them more economically viable in the long term.

“However, this is not the limit of Scotland’s ambition. The Scottish Government’s aim is to deliver world class connectivity by 2020, enabling people across Scotland to connect any time, any place, anywhere using any device.”

Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said:  “The public sector is investing £146m in this three year project which will see coverage extend from around 21% of premises through commercial roll-out to over 80% across the region. We want to ensure the Highlands and Islands is able to benefit from the social and economic advantages of a digitally connected Scotland.

“We are seeing the areas reached ramp up and many of the communities announced today could be in line to get services before the end of the year.  When complete these upgrades will reach around another 23,000 homes and businesses. To achieve this BT is also putting in new infrastructure to reach people currently connected directly to their telephone exchange.”

Most homes and businesses receive their services through green street cabinets which, when upgraded, candeliver ‘fibre to the cabinet” or “FTTC” technology. This brings the fibre to the cabinet and then the services run on existing copper wires to people’s homes.

However, to deliver services to many of those customers connected directly to an exchange, known as (EO) customers, BT is building new cabinets. The first customers linked in this way are likely to be able to access services before the end of the year.

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the Rest of Scotland.

In total, more than three quarters of a million homes and business premises are expected to benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative. In the Highlands and Islands, the £146m project is led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funding partners include the Scottish Government, HIE, and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). BT, the selected private sector partner who is rolling out the open access fibre network, is investing £19 million in the area.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “The advent of fibre broadband in these latest communities will mean a major boost for local homes and businesses. With more adults working from home than ever before and more people shopping or watching TV online, today’s announcement will help Scotland work and play faster.

“We’re really proud of our role at the heart of Scotland, delivering critical infrastructure which helps the nation to compete on a world stage. We could only reach the parts of the Highlands and Islands that lay beyond commercial deployment by working with others, and I find it really heartening that so many of our smaller communities now stand to benefit. Our ongoing deployment of fibre across the country is one of the biggest civil engineering projects happening in Scotland today and will be to the advantage of generations to come.” 

UK Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This fantastic news marks the next stage of a remarkable transformation of broadband in Scotland which will see around 95 per cent of premises connected to fibre broadband infrastructure by 2017/18. We understand how important access to superfast broadband is, which is why the UK Government is investing more than £100m in broadband for Scotland. The widespread access to superfast broadband that our rollout will deliver will provide a tremendous boost to the Scottish economy.”

*These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not be able to access fibre-based broadband at the same point in the roll-out. Further announcements will be made as more areas are able to access the growing fibre infrastructure.

Area (Exchange)
Fibre to the Cabinet

Quarff (Cunningsburgh)
Embo (Dornoch)
Muir of Ord

Area (Exchange)
Exchange Only lines

Muir of Ord

  • Key Information

The timetable has taken account of many aspects including existing infrastructure, technical and physical feasibility, and ensuring the people of the Highlands and Islands get best value for the investment.

Locations to be upgraded will be announced in phases as we progress. The first locations have been announced and further locations will be announced each quarter as the programme rolls out.

The reason for a phased approach is to ensure that the information we make public is as accurate as possible and we can provide a high degree of certainty.

BT will deploy widespread fibre to the cabinet, which offers wholesale broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps. Engineers will also lay some Fibre to the Premises, which offers speeds of up to 300Mbps.

For premises not currently connected through a cabinet but directly to the exchange, known as Exchange Only (E0), modelling is taking place to modify the network - including building new cabinets. Developments will be released as available, but this work will happen in tandem to the cabinet rollout and the first new cabinets are likely to be started before the end of the year.

We are not going to reach everyone in this first three year phased rollout. In some cases there will be people who can’t be reached even when their local exchange is upgraded. They will not be forgotten, and there are a range of initiatives already started to find solutions for people in hard to reach areas.

However, the new fibre backbone will reach deep into the Highlands and Islands and will make further expansion possible.

BT and HIE will be assessing new and emerging technology options through a £2.5 million Innovation Fund, with a view to extending faster broadband to the most remote places.

The rollout of Next Generation Broadband is supported by Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) – a £7.5 million initiative that is delivering support to rural and remote communities to help them deliver their own broadband solutions. CBS, delivered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise across Scotland, has been designed as a one-stop-shop to provide community groups with advice and information.

A Start-Up Fund is also available to support delivery of demonstrator projects. These will act as case studies and generate learning, showcasing technical solutions and business models that can be replicated across Scotland.

Further info is available at and

About Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy across a region which covers more than half of Scotland.

With around 250 staff, HIE supports hundreds of client businesses and social enterprises; strengthens communities, particularly in fragile areas; develops key sectors, and invests in infrastructure to create a more competitive and low carbon region.

Our priority sectors for growth include Energy, Life Sciences, Food and Drink, Creative Industries, Tourism, Financial and Business Services and Universities.

You can visit our website at or follow us on social media: Twitter : Facebook : Linkedin : Youtube

About BDUK

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race.  The portfolio is comprised of three elements: 

  • £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
  • £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
  • £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services

Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.
For further information:

About BT

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

For the year ended 31 March 2013, BT Group’s reported revenue was £18,103m with reported profit before taxation of £2,315m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit

Leave a comment

Stuart Harvey 16/07/2014

I on a Exchange Only lines in Ardersier and work have started here hope it be ready before end of the year

Sandra Silke 25/07/2014

There seems to be a large number of Exchange Only lines in Culloden of which I'm one. It's good that all the above companies are working to get premises like mine connected to fibre. I thought a while back that EOs would be forgotten about but have been assured by HIE that Culloden EO lines will be connected to fibre hopefully by the end of the year. Can't come too soon for me and no doubt many others.

stuart Harvey 29/07/2014

hi Sandra Silke yes I seen a lot of work going on in Exchange Only lines in Culloden

M Rawley 01/02/2015

All this tal about superfast broadband and not a word about when it will be available!

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 02/02/2015

Hiya, It's available to 80,000 homes and businesses in the Highlands and Islands. Everyone can check their own postcodes or phone numbers on the online checker to see progress - Meantime we're working hard to extend coverage to more people by the end of 2016.

J Richardson 12/02/2015

Even BT engineers don't have info re the exchanges they maintain it would appear. Basically what BT have done is put in fast broadband where they can meet the highest numbers the most cheaply and not where it is needed the most - because this makes them look good. The ones left are the remote areas where the technology to provide fast broadband at a reasonable cost is still being trialled. For those (often poorer communities) it is likely they will have to pay for expensive and more restrictive satellite services - which by the way are unlikely to be able to deliver eg Skype services efficiently which are so crucial in remote areas - A Caution on Satellite Broadband for Remote Communities

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 12/02/2015

The commercial roll-out of fibre broadband delivered through the market alone would have reached 21% of premises in the Highlands and Islands. The partnership investment being made by the public sector and BT, as the private sector partner which won the contract, has developed a project which will take that coverage to 84%. This project is designed to reach as many people as possible within the budget, and will reach the majority or premises in every one of the region's local authority areas. It is a huge step change given we had so little existing fibre. We won't forget about those we can't reach yet. There are areas, particularly where numbers of premises are low and some distance from each other that it is really difficult to reach. Bringing fibre closer to these communities does help open up new opportunities, including wireless and mobile options.

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