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UPD BT Subsea Fibre Optic Cables Begin to Connect Rural West Scotland

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 (1:57 pm) - Score 2,500

BT, as part of the wider Digital Scotland project, has started laying the first batch of 20 new submarine fibre optic cables (400 kms in total) around the western side of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands region. The work involves a special cable-laying ship and is being supported by Global Marine Systems, Orange Marine and A-2-Sea Solutions.

The £409.8m Digital Scotland scheme aims to ensure that 85% of Scottish homes and businesses can access BT’s “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network by the end of 2015 and this will rise to around 95% by the end of 2017. By contrast the Highland and Islands (HIE) region alone anticipates that it will only reach 84% by 2016 and plans to consume £126.4m of the overall funding (£19.4m from BT).

At the end of last year BT signed a £26.9 million deal with the three companies mentioned above to help build the new fibre optic submarine cables and most of this work will benefit Scotland’s western HIE region (here), such as the Kintyre Peninsula, the Isle of Lewis (Stornoway) in the Outer Hebrides and the northern Orkney Islands.

Under the original plan the new cables were expected to be deployed between May to October 2014 and local reports suggest that the first work, between Ardyne (Cowal peninsula) and Ardbeg, began on Monday. The French cable-laying ship Rene Descartes (Orange Marine) is now sailing just off the coastline at Largs as it deploys a new cable to Cumbrae and the surrounding areas. ISPreview.co.uk notes that it’s actually possible to track their progress on the Marine Traffic website.

The longest single cable run of the subsea project will reach almost 79km between Ullapool and Stornoway.

The 20 New Subsea Cable Routes
Largs – Millport
Kilchattan Bay- Millport
Rothesay – Toward
Kilfinan – Lochgilphead
Campbeltown – Shiskine
Corrie – West Kilbride
Jura – Port Askaig
Glenbarr – Port Ellen
Jura – Ormsary
Kilchoan – Tobermory
Craignure – Oban
Ardgour – Onich
Stornoway – Ullapool
Lochmaddy – Leverburgh
Carnan – Dunvegan
Ardvasar – Mallaig
Dervaig – Scarinish
Lochboisdale – Eriskay
Eriskay – North Bay
Evie – Westray

Meanwhile the Chelmsford-based Global Marine Systems holds responsibility for conducting the related marine route surveys and supplying the necessary cables, while Hampshire-based A-2-Sea Solutions are handling the onshore connections to link with BT’s network. It’s important to stress that laying the cable is only part of the work and so locals shouldn’t be expected to see any immediately benefits until it’s all connected up and the relevant FTTC/P services deployed.

UPDATE 27th June 2014

Small correction to the overall funding figures above, failed to give the overall total and only put the ‘Rest of Scotland’ total in the first time around. Incidentally it all breaks down as follows.

The Highlands and Islands (£145.8m):
• £126.4m from public bodies
(Scottish Government, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Highland and Islands Enterprise and all seven local authorities that form part of the project area)

• £19.4m from BT.

The Rest of Scotland (£264m):
• £157 million from public sources
(Scottish Government, ERDF, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and all 27 local authorities that form part of the Rest of Scotland Project area)

• £106.7 from BT.

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all says:

    Great for the H&I, well done and laying 1Km of submarine cable in Scotland is cheaper than an average cabinet subsidy in Wales! £26.9m/400km v £204m/3000 cabinets.

  2. Avatar TheManStan says:

    Is this costing is simply for the cable laying?

    i.e. none of the other costs, such as connecting up and hardware at each end of the cable for the 40 sites?

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      UNderstood, but it also compares well with what has been reported for re-using a fibre to get to the Isles of Scilly.

  3. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

    I imagine the £26.9 million, which includes deals with all three companies + BT, would have to cover all of the related costs and not just be for laying the cable. But I’m not sure how much of it, if any, would connect into the domestic side of building new FTTC cabinets etc.

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      The entire H&I contract is £126m subsidy so the £26.9m is for submarine cables. The £1.3m each is lower than the number in the press for re-using the connection to the Isles of Scilly.

  4. Avatar TheManStan says:

    That’s the thing to me it reads, and so does the original BTOpenreach press release, as a £26.9m contract with the 3 subsea cabling companies to lay cable and the ground work to ground stations, as part of the bigger HIE project.


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