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Scotland UK Reaches 85 Percent Fibre Broadband Coverage Goal

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 (4:02 pm) - Score 666

The £410 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project has today announced the achievement of their first contract target, which means that 85% of homes and businesses in the country can now access a faster “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connection.

Overall around 550,000 additional premises (this is on top of the existing commercial roll-out from operators like BT and Virgin Media) have benefited from the project and the goal is now to extend this coverage to 95% by the end of March 2018 (reaching a total of 750,000 premises by completion).

However we should add that the Highland and Islands (HIE) region is still only expected to reach 85% coverage by the end of 2016, although yesterday’s news does suggest that a future contract could help to push this to 90% if it can be agreed (here).

Digital Scotland’s Phase 1 Contract Funding

The Highlands and Islands (£145.8m):
• £126.4m from public bodies (Scottish Government, Broadband Delivery UK [£50.83m], Highland and Islands Enterprise and all seven local authorities in the project area)
• £19.4m from BT.

The Rest of Scotland (£264m):
• £157m from public sources (Scottish Government, ERDF, Broadband Delivery UK [£50m], and all 27 local authorities that form part of the Rest of Scotland Project area)
• £106.7m from BT.

One slight quibble is the typically unclear language of BT’s press release, which does NOT specifically state that the 85% figure is reflective of “superfast” (24Mbps+ or 30Mbps+) speeds. However we know from Ofcom’s data, which seems to be supported by Thinkbroadband’s checking, that very nearly 85% can access 24Mbps+ speeds (around 84%). However estimates are always difficult things to verify and the real-world is usually much more variable.

Otherwise we’re told that the project has so far built 2,480 new street cabinets across Scotland, most of which will be carrying BTOpenreach’s ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service. Not to mention the construction of a new backhaul network comprising 800km of a land-based fibre optic cable and 400km of subsea fibre laid via 20 subsea cable routes.

Andy Hepburn, Openreach Director for NGA in Scotland, said:

“Halfway through the Digital Scotland rollout we’re on budget and ahead of schedule. Hundreds of thousands of Scottish premises can connect to our high-speed broadband network today, including around 164,000 in Edinburgh.

The DSSB programme is one of the largest current infrastructure projects in the whole of Europe and the planning task alone is formidable. We’re building a robust, secure national network which will meet Scotland’s high-speed digital demands well into the future.

We aim to reach as many people as possible with the funds available and every week services arrive in more rural and remote communities, as well as those in urban areas where commercial upgrades weren’t an option. With two years to go, there’s much still to do and we’re ready for the challenges ahead.”

Going forward Scotland’s SNP government have this week pledged to support the central UK Government’s push for a new legally-binding 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO), but at the same time they’ve (Nicola Sturgeon) also called for “superfast digital broadband” to reach “100% of premises across Scotland.”

As usual the details about how the 100% target will be funded and delivered remain somewhat elusive and that may be because nobody is yet sure quite how to do it (i.e. tackle the final 5%, which comprises some notoriously sparse communities and rugged / mountainous terrain).

Any future contracts will also depend upon the shape of BDUK’s forthcoming EU state aid agreement, which is still being debated. This could require more input from alternative network providers as opposed to reliance upon BT, which may be reluctant to throw its own money at such difficult areas.

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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.
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1 Response
  1. Avatar craski

    We spend a lot of time talking about the final 5%.
    If Scotland as a whole has met the 85% target and there are still many areas with achieved coverage significantly less than this (e.g. Aberdeeenshire is less than 70%), it wont be the final 5% that remain difficult and expensive to get to, in some areas it will be the final 25% that need more help.

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