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AB Internet Chosen to Fix Broadband for Part of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 (12:01 am) - Score 966

Eight Inner Hebrides communities in rural Scotland, including Colonsay, Mull, Iona, Jura, Lismore, Islay, Luing and Craignish, have become the latest to pick fixed wireless ISP AB Internet to solve their local broadband connectivity woes under the GigaPlus Argyll project. Some 1,400+ premises will benefit.

We first touched on this scheme at the end of last year (here). Back then BT and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) had just agreed to remove the area from their wider Digital Scotland project, so that an alternative network provider could be found to reach the parts that BT couldn’t.

On top of that we recall how the Scottish Government’s Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) programme had also provisionally agreed to provide around £750,000 to cover 89% of the scheme’s cost, which came alongside a vague mention of how the solution would involve a “state of the art wireless technology.”

Since then the GigaPlus Argyll scheme has conducted an open competitive procurement and chosen Lincoln-based wireless ISP AB Internet Ltd. to build and run the network. The same ISP also won another similar contract for serving the Loch Tay community in Perth and Kinross (here).

As before the new network, which should benefit 1,400+ premises and include the building of more than 30 Points of Presence (PoP), is expected to deliver broadband download speeds of up to 50Mbps (Megabits per second) and interestingly CBS has also approved increased funding of £988,000 to support the roll-out (this makes us wonder whether they’re now covering closer to 100% of the costs). Prices for the service will start from £14.99 per month.

Derek Mackay, Minister for Transport and Islands, said:

This is a pioneering project overcoming significant geographical, engineering and commercial challenges to bring superfast broadband to homes and businesses not only scattered across communities, but in this case, across islands.

Every day we are building on the growing broadband infrastructure, reaching further into our rural and remote areas. Every forward step supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver first-rate connectivity in Scotland by 2020, ensuring we are a world class digital nation.”

Moray Finch, Chairman of GigaPlus Argyll, said:

Connections in all of these areas are poor, many with speeds less than 2 Mbps, and the project will deliver transformational change to island residents and businesses. To go from the superslow lane to being able to offer affordable broadband to meet the needs of homeowners as well as uncontended commercial connections for businesses will open up huge opportunities for us.”

The project is expected to be delivered in phases, with the first to benefit being in the south of Mull and Lismore, followed by Luing and the northern end of Jura. After that the deployment will spread north-west across Mull, south through Colonsay, the Craignish Peninsula and parts of Jura, to the Loch Gruniart area to the west of Islay, and last to Ulva and Iona.

Project completion is expected in June 2016 and a recent economic impact assessment for the project has already claimed that access to better broadband could deliver “at least£3.6m to the area from increased economic activity. No doubt the locals will just be happy to get something better than today’s slow connectivity.

It’s worth pointing out that some of these projects might be a lot harder to achieve had BT not deployed new land and subsea fibre optic capacity supply cables to the area last year.

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