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BT Hooks Up First Superfast Broadband Customers on the Isle of Scilly

Friday, November 21st, 2014 (12:20 pm) - Score 3,074

After several years of waiting the first of 2,200 residents on the remote Isles of Scilly, which resides several miles off the south west coast of Cornwall in England, have begun to connect via BT’s new ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) broadband service that is being supplied by a new submarine fibre optic cable back to the mainland.

The new connectivity, which is said to make Scilly’s five islands “some of the best connected … in the world“, forms part of the wider £132m Superfast Cornwall project that, thanks to investment from Europe and BT, aims to make “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity available to 95% of homes and businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of this year.

Previously locals on the tiny island chain had to rely on an inferior Microwave (radio / wireless) link to supply the local broadband services. But an extra £3.7 million has since been spent in order to upgrade the local connectivity, which in July 2014 saw the 12,184 tonne cable ship Resolute divert an unused and high-capacity submarine fibre optic cable to the island (here).

The 939km long cable between Porthcurno (Cornwall) and Santander (Spain) has remained unused since it was taken out of service in 2006, after 11 years of handling high-speed international communications. Resolute has since cut the cable at two points in the Atlantic – about 100kms and 15kms off Lands End – and diverted a section for use by the islanders. After that BTOpenreach began building the new on-land infrastructure.

New fibre optic cables have been laid from the main island, St Mary’s, to Tresco and between Tresco and Bryher, whilst new Microwave radio links have been used to provide the same FTTC services for St Agnes and St Martins.

Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT, said:

The arrival of fibre broadband on the Isles of Scilly, England’s most remote community, is a landmark event. It is a wonderful example of what is being achieved by BT in partnership with the public sector to bring this exciting technology to locations across the UK, which would have been considered beyond reach just a few years ago. Already, more than 21 million UK homes and businesses have access to fibre broadband – which puts the UK ahead of any other major European economy – and now we are pushing the boundaries to go even further.

The recent arrival of fibre broadband in remote UK locations as far afield as the Isles of Scilly and Shetland shows our commitment to overcoming the challenges and making fibre broadband as widely available as possible – and that we are doing so in an environmentally friendly way in a spirit of close cooperation with local communities.”

Apparently one of the first Isles of Scilly companies to benefit from the new ‘up to’ 80Mbps FTTC service is Scented Narcissi, a flower farm business on St Mary’s, which provides narcissi from nine family farms on the isles to customers across the UK and Europe. Another local business already benefiting is the Star Castle Hotel, a sixteenth century fortress on St Mary’s, which is now a 38-bedroom hotel.

We suspect that the next big announcement from Cornwall will shortly confirm the completion of their superfast broadband deployment project, although it’s likely that work will continue to fill the final 5% gap at the end.

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