Two steps to connection

Without public investment in the Highlands and Islands only around one in five of us would have seen access to fibre based broadband.  Our next generation broadband roll-out has been designed to reach the most people possible, as quickly as possible, within the £146m budget available.

See how it's built

Every part of the region is important to HIE and the plans have 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.

This project, combined with BT’s commercial rollout, will deliver fibre services to more than 200,000 properties across the region.

There are a number of stages involved in delivering fibre based broadband services as part of this three year project:

Main fibre network

There was very little existing fibre in the region, so the core of this project has been to create a massive fibre network across the region to provide the foundations for digital developments for years to come.  Its creation was vital in bringing services closer to all and in allowing the project to reach the majority of premises in every local authority area in this current phase of roll-out.

To create the backhaul network, BT has installed 800km of new fibre on land and more than 400km of subsea cables over 20 crossings to our islands. The subsea programme, which was completed at the end of 2014, is the largest marine fibre laying project undertaken by BT in the UK.

Local access network

As well as this backbone of fibre – the project then has to build the access points which deliver the services to people’s homes and businesses.  This involves upgrading hundreds of exchange areas and creating the spider’s web of additional cable to connect local communities.

In the main local services are delivered via green cabinets  - Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC).

The fibre is run from the exchange to your local green street cabinet.  The broadband is then delivered over your existing copper phone lines using VDSL technology. It is capable of delivering download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps depending on your distance from the cabinet.

As part of the project we are building hundreds of additional cabinets across the region. Some of these cabinets include those being built to provide service for customers who currently get their telecoms direct from the exchange (Exchange Only).

In addition to the FTTC technology there is also ‘Fibre to the Premise’ (FTTP) technology. It provides access to a service which can bring fibre fibre right to your front door. It is being used in some areas as part of the project. FTTP can deliver download speeds of up to 330Mbps.

Ethernet, which can offer major cost and speed benefits for medium-sized or large businesses, will become much more widely available and offer a more affordable solution for businesses.

What about me?

HIE recognises that people in every part of the region want to be better connected. We want to see as many people as possible make the very best of the opportunities digital connectivity provides.


My town can get fibre broadband but I haven’t
seen any difference to my broadband.
Why not?


I’ve checked if I can get fibre broadband and the
checker says I can’t get it because I get my services
direct from the exchange. What does that mean?


I have a business and really need better broadband
services – when is roll-out happening in my area?


The roll-out isn’t going to reach me before the end of the project in 2016. My current broadband is desperate.
I can’t wait that long - can’t you get to me sooner?


My area isn’t covered in the programme.
I need decent broadband. What can I do?

Solutions in hardest to reach areas

In some areas of the Highlands and Islands, as is the case elsewhere in the UK, there are premises where it is too difficult, or too expensive, to get to using FTTC and FTTP technology. Either the properties are too far away from a cabinet or other connection point, or where there are small numbers of homes, often some distance from each other, there is no effective place to put a connection point to reach a viable number of properties.

Where people can’t be reached directly just now, the project will still be of benefit. Closer proximity to the network will make finding alternative solutions more likely.

As the project rolls-out HIE continues to work with the Digital Scotland partnership to investigate how both the project and coverage can be extended.  An Innovation Fund has been set up to deliver new solutions once the fibre backbone has been deployed. Its purpose is to find new ways of providing commercial broadband solutions (fixed or wireless) so that we can push coverage of better broadband beyond the 84%.

Community Broadband Scotland

The Scottish Government has created Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), which is delivered across Scotland by HIE.  Its role is to help people in communities which won't benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband investment get connected to faster broadband in a way which gives them (as close as possible) equality with those in more urban or connected areas.

CBS offers advice, guidance and significant capital funding (100% of scoping and up to 89% of capital investment cost) for communities who are willing to own, and in some cases operate the assets required to bring better broadband to their residents.

CBS works with communities, helping them to understand the likelihood of connectivity under roll-out, and if it is unlikely, helping them scope a technical solution and develop a viable business plan.

Learn more

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