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Scotland Boost Superfast Broadband Coverage with £15.6m Reinvestment

Friday, March 17th, 2017 (1:37 pm) - Score 1,177

The £410 million Digital Scotland project with BT (Openreach) has announced that £15.6 million from contract clawback (Gainshare) will be reinvested to raise the number of homes and businesses that have access to “superfast broadband” speeds of greater than 24Mbps.

At present the project has already helped to make FTTC/P based superfast broadband networks available to nearly 90% of premises in Scotland and the current plan is to reach around 95% of Scotland with “high speed fibre broadband” by the end of March 2018, although this figure drops to 86% for the rural Highland and Islands region by the end of 2017 (here). We’re not completely certain whether that 86% for the H&I reflects the raw fibre footprint (inc. sub-24Mbps speeds) or speeds of 24-30Mbps+.

The good news is that the Digital Scotland contract, which also makes use of public investment from the Broadband Delivery UK scheme and private investment from BT, includes a clawback provision that requires BT to return part of the public investment when uptake of the new service passes beyond the 20% mark. The money that gets returned can then be reinvested to further improve coverage and connection speeds.

The programme is currently split into two halves (The Rest of Scotland and The Highlands & Islands) and we’ve already seen clawback return £2.3m for the H&I region, which will be used to reach an additional 6,000 premises.

Today the Scottish Government has confirmed that an overall project total of £15.6m will now be returned via clawback, which is expected to help boost FTTC/P broadband coverage and performance in areas with poor speeds including Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dumfries and Galloway, Perth and Kinross, the Scottish Borders and Stirling.

Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution, said:

“I am delighted that thanks to the higher than expected uptake of our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme more premises than originally planned will now have the opportunity to benefit from investment in reliable and speedy broadband services.

The increase in broadband access shows clearly the difference this Government is making to people, communities and businesses, supporting jobs and livelihoods in the North East of Scotland.

This additional funding will benefit local authorities across the country but will be focussed on those areas that need it most including Aberdeenshire, Angus, and Perthshire as well as Stirling, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

Work is already underway and by December 2018 every local authority across the project area will enjoy at least 85% superfast broadband coverage with users able to experience speeds of above 24Mbps as part of our commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband by 2020.

We are already looking at how we reach further and ultimately ensure we get superfast speeds to all. This will include extending the programme to new areas, as well as identifying new solutions for parts of the network that are currently unable to access superfast speeds.”

Robert Thorburn, BT Scotland’s Fibre Broadband Director, said:

“We are proud of the Digital Scotland rollout – a massive infrastructure project that’s being delivered on time and on budget and provides a vital digital network for Scotland for generations to come. It’s built in to the contract that strong take-up levels trigger the release of funds for reinvestment back into the network, and BT has chosen to release these funds early so we can go further.”

We assume Mackay isn’t referencing the whole of Scotland when he talks about “at least 85% superfast broadband coverage” because we’re already well past that point, although the H&I region is still a long way behind. Another confusion is that the press release refers to “superfast” as being 24Mbps+, which is despite Digital Scotland and all future contracts normally using the 30Mbps+ definition. Fun.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government are currently still working to develop a plan that will extend “superfast broadband” coverage to 100% of premises by 2021 (here), although we think they’d struggle to deliver that in the H&I region without falling back to fixed wireless and / or inferior Satellite solutions.

The press release describes this £15.6m as being “additional” money, although strictly speaking clawback is a partial reinvestment of an existing commitment. Sadly today’s announcement doesn’t offer any further detail.

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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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20 Responses
  1. Avatar craski says:

    Great news for those that are still in not spots. It is just a real shame that Digital Scotland are so poor at communicating their forward plans in any detail.

  2. Avatar The Dude says:

    Hmm, I wonder if that would include someone like me – rural Aberdeenshire, connected to a fibre-enabled cabinet, but with a line length > 2 miles… As said above, Digital Scotland are really poor at revealing any sort of details.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      We’re looking to move to Scotland, potentially next month and probably to somewhere in or near the Cairngorms area.

      The only tech that’s going to work in these sparsely populated areas is wireless or FTTP.

      So, wireless it is, then. Why haven’t these areas been blanketed with wireless coverage yet? Whether fixed wireless or even just 4G?

      BDUK started years ago. The solution for such areas was known then, and it remains the same now.

      BDUK specifically excluded – by way of terms and wording – the one technology that could work.

      Nothing has changed.

      Can we please get past the BDUK AKA “give money to BT” project and maybe make a start on a “superfast broadband project”?

    2. Avatar Craski says:

      “Hmm, I wonder if that would include someone like me – rural Aberdeenshire, connected to a fibre-enabled cabinet, but with a line length > 2 miles”

      @The Dude
      I have noticed a few new All In One cabinets being used for infill in the area which gives some hope but you have more chance of spotting a cabinet in the wild a year before Digital Scotland or Aberdeenshire Council will tell you there is a plan to help in that area. Even worse if you are in area which they had aspirations to cover to in the BDUK roll out but havent made it yet, Digital Scotland wont tell you one way or the other and Community Broadband Scotland wont entertain you either.

    3. Avatar AndyH says:

      @ DTMark

      “BDUK specifically excluded – by way of terms and wording – the one technology that could work.” I assume you refer to wireless.

      If so, BDUK specifically included wireless:

      “All NGA technologies, including fibre, wired and fixed wireless technologies each may have a role in delivering those outcomes.”

      “The Commission’s decision notes that certain advanced Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technologies can qualify as an NGA Network.”

    4. Avatar craski says:

      Was wireless only added in phase 2 SEP contracts of BDUK whereas Digital Scotland are still in phase 1?
      Aberdeenshire council recently told me “there are only two technologies cleared for use in the programme – fibre and satellite”.

    5. Avatar AndyH says:

      @ craski

      It was included in Phase 1 – http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases/243212/243212_1387832_172_1.pdf

      Aberdeen Council is correct because there are no wireless suppliers unfortunately. The funding and technology are there, the companies to implement it are not.

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      The clarifications that allowed wireless in phase 1 came too late to have a material impact on the projects.

      The initial thinking to decide the scope – the design, the contracts, the bidders and their plans – left wireless out. Models suggested the money could reach 90% with fibre, without wireless. “Everyone knew” that the rest would need more money later. Bids were for fibre, not for fibre coordinated with wireless.

      By the time the clarifications happened, tendering was already going on, and some contracts had been awarded. They weren’t going to be stopped.

      The overall mindset was put in place without wireless, without enough money, and with a 90% target. That mindset has since continued greatly. The counties, for the most part, just continued with that in SEP. In a lot of cases, there was no need for new contracts.

      Now all the projects are free running, making their own choices, it will need a brave standalone decision to swap from fixed line to wireless. Especially when some places are getting Gigaclear bidding with FTTP.

    7. Avatar The Dude says:


      Yeah, I thought as much. I was told by the local Community Broadband coordinator that our post code (9 houses) was included in the “Digital Scotland HIE Phase 5 Infill” plans, which seems odd to me – I was sure we were under “Rest of Scotland”, not HIE… I might write the coordinator again for an update.

    8. Avatar Stephen says:

      I have also noticed some of the all in 1 cabinets being rolled out. in Westhill, Mason Lodge & at the Dunecht exchange. Lets hope they keep spreading. I’ve also seen cabinets with extensions on them, both PCP + DSLAM cabs so takeup must be pretty good.

    9. Avatar DTMark says:

      So back in the early days of BDUK, dual objectives were set. All premises to get 2Mbps+ and 90% of premises to get 24Mbps+. By the end of 2015.

      Here we are in March 2017 and money has been spent. The objectives have not bee achieved.

      Every single BDUK project is a failure (?) when judged by the original objectives. We see a posthumous rewriting of the objectives every week by local authorities claiming success. We can all claim success if we rewrite the objectives to match what has actually been done.

      The Highlands are only going to be reached, realistically, through point-to-point wireless to create a network and get over the tops of those hills and mountains, and then from there to telegraph poles then some kind of G.Fast module so needing no antenna fitted to homes, or, directly to premises, requiring antenna installation per home.

      Let us simply acknowledge that nobody is going to be running FTTP to premises that are so remote in such terrain, nor even to “distribution points” near enough to them. It is not the right solution.

      So at the inception of the project this must have been recognised and a solution designed to deliver the project and meet the objectives.

      And yet, that doesn’t appear to have happened.

      And still now, no such solution appears to be have even been designed.

      Why not? When will the project be started?

    10. Avatar craski says:

      Wireless to the Cabinet was a potentially useful solution but havent heard anything further since this ISPReview article from Feb 2015.

      FTTRN also gave some hope but that hasnt come to fruition either.

      Satellite was and still is their joker.

    11. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I think you missed this one.


      There wasn’t much point covering WTTC deployments after that as it’s now an adopted tool and we’d just be repeating the news, albeit while changing the place name. But it has been deployed in a few places now and is a choice that Openreach can call upon if it fits.

    12. Avatar DTMark says:

      Fibre to the node – cost way too high for this to be practical. Running fibre to within a couple of hundred metres of every, or almost every, remote premise in the Highlands is not going to happen. We know this. There isn’t the money or the will.

      Wireless to the cabinet – non-starter, too many lines are way too long. A technical limitation that cannot be overcome.

      But then we’ve always known this. Nothing has changed.

      Two sensible options:

      Wlreless to remote node – e.g. hamlets of 6 houses all within maybe 300m of the node, so extremely close together. Will work in some locations.

      Wirless to premises – all other remote premises not near others as above.

      The same two solutions as existed at the inception of the project.

      Neither gives a long-term solution but both could deliver “superfast” to getting on for just about everywhere uplifting people from “nothing” to maybe 50Mbps.

      And yet this still doesn’t seem to have been “designed” yet. I wonder when the BDUK project will start?

    13. Avatar The Dude says:

      Interesting comments re: deployment of wireless tech. I haven’t heard/read about any of that near us, but I might have to stop and ask the BTO guys next time I see their van parked nearby. My quest for information seems to have hit a dead end with the Community Broadband coordinator: “sorry, but you need to register with Digital Scotland. This is their programme and, as such, they have access to much more accurate and up to date information.”

    14. Avatar craski says:

      “you need to register with Digital Scotland. This is their programme and, as such, they have access to much more accurate and up to date information.”

      Good luck getting any useful information out of Digital Scotland. To date they have released nothing but extremely high level plans that in reality tell us very little. They were criticised for this in the Audit Scotland report but nothing much has changed.

    15. Avatar The Dude says:

      Yeah, I know. Disappointing, since the coordinator was pretty happy to help me out last time. But I have written to Digital Scotland today, so we shall see (or perhaps not) 🙂

  3. Avatar Stephen says:

    I noticed a lot of Openreach activity this morning on Milltimber Brae, Peterculer, by cabinet 6. Now this cabinet is already FTTC but there are many E/O lines connected to it. I wonder if the very large drum of black cable with yellow stripes could be fibre for FTTP?

  4. Avatar Garry Chapman says:

    I get internet from the inverarity exchange in angus and my broadband is shocking. Bt put a new “bigger” copper cable up to my telegrapth pole and the i ternet been even worse.it does say that iveraraity exchange is due to be upgraded but that was well over a year ago. What is the timescale of these projects??

  5. Avatar Clive Smith says:

    I also think Digital Scotland should be more open about the NOT spots. I live in rural Dumfries and Galloway and getting fed up with speeds of 0.5 to 0.7Mbps.
    Can we have some idea when we can enter the 21st century? You always mention the areas that get improved BB but never tell us about the NOT spots and what might happen to improve out lot.

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