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UPD BT Reveal New GBP8m Fibre Optic Broadband Link to Orkney and Shetland

Tuesday, Sep 18th, 2012 (8:12 am) - Score 2,735

BT has announced a new £8 million project to replace its slow microwave wireless connection to the remote islands of Orkney and Shetland with a fibre optic cable link, which is expected to connect via the undersea SHEFA-2 cable that links the Faroe Islands with mainland Scotland (UK). But don’t they have this already?

The project is expected to bring a range of new services to Lerwick, Kirkwall, Dingwall, Tain, Thurso, Alness and Invergordon. This will include an ADSL2+ (up to 20Mbps) based broadband upgrade for home users (the current service uses 8Mbps ADSL) and a new raft of superfast Ethernet products for businesses; sadly there’s no mention of a superfast FTTC solution.


The new link, which will use 400km of undersea fibre optic cable (a further 600km is used over land), is expected to go live during early 2013 and will be one of the longest fibre systems in the UK.

Brendan Dick, Director of BT Scotland, said (Shetland Times):

By investing £8 million in this fibre spine for Orkney, Shetland and the north of Scotland, BT is laying the building blocks for any future deployment of fibre broadband

Faster broadband is touching the lives of everyone from small businesses to internet shoppers, and transforming the way we do things for the better. BT is committed to making faster technologies available to as many homes and businesses as possible.”

Interestingly not one of the reports seems to have mentioned that Shetland Telecom recently connected up a new fibre optic service to the undersea SHEFA-2 cable during April 2012 and has already begun connecting homes on the Shetland Islands via two community broadband schemes (here). BT appeared to show little interest in the region until after this project had made some headway.

Marvin Smith, Shetland Telecom’s Project Manager, separately told ISPreview.co.uk:

BT are more than welcome to use our infrastructure. The network is open access and everybody and anybody is welcome to use it. At the same time though, we are not sitting about waiting for the large service providers. If we have to go further and do more we will.”

Ultimately both BT and Shetland Telecom’s new network should help to support the council’s Digital Shetland strategy, which aims to ensure that 80% of Shetland’s communities are connected to a fibre optic backbone by March 2016. The existing microwave radio link will meanwhile be retained as a back-up.

UPDATE 10:24am


Since writing this article we’ve been seeking some extra clarification. BT is understood to have leased fibres in Shefa2 from Shetland to UK in 2007 and this capacity is what they now plan to light above. BT are also buying capacity from Shetland to Faroe and back to UK on Farice1 for resiliency and will use Shetland Telecom’s fibre to give them a route from Lerwick to Maywick.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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