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Openreach Deploy Wireless-to-the-Cabinet Broadband on Scalpay Island

Wednesday, Jun 21st, 2017 (3:02 pm) - Score 2,465

Homes on the remote and small Outer Hebrides island of Scalpay in Scotland (Highlands and Islands) can now access broadband download speeds of up to 80Mbps after Openreach (BT) deployed their hybrid Microwave (radio) and VDSL2 based Wireless-to-the-Cabinet (WTTC) technology.

The WTTC solution has been around for several years, although it’s somewhat niche (i.e. used to target very specific areas) and as such we don’t often see it being used. The technology is similar to Openreach’s normal Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service, except instead of running a fibre optic cable to your local VDSL2 street cabinet they harness a Line of Sight (LOS) Microwave link to supply the capacity.

Otherwise ISPs treat the service in the same way as they would a normal “fibre broadband” (FTTC) product.


microwave wireless to the cabinet

In this case public funding from the £428m Digital Scotland project enabled Openreach to build a radio mast at North Harbour and its dishes were then used to send and receive radio signals from a site at Sunnyhill more than 6km away at Tarbert, in Harris. After that the signals were relayed to two street cabinets on Scalpay, one at the exchange and the other at Outend. Less than 300 people live on the island.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Fibre Director in Scotland, said:

“Innovative engineering work like this is helping to bring fibre broadband to more remote communities across Scotland. This technology removes the need for expensive and complex subsea cables, but brings all of the same benefits to homes and businesses.

We’ve seen strong take-up rates which is enabling the reinvestment of millions of pounds back into the network. We’ll continue to work with communities and our partners on new ways to deliver this huge and challenging infrastructure project to benefit the people of Scotland.”

Donnie Morrison, HIE Digital team, added:

“The publicly subsidised Connected Communities network has been delivering broadband for Scalpay until now. We’re delighted that mainstream next generation broadband has now arrived. Word is spreading and more than 30 premises are already connected in just a month.

Digital Scotland has an online checker which will give you an overview of available services www.hie.co.uk/fibre, and you can shop around on comparison websites or speak to an Internet Service Provider to order. Where services are available customers will need a phone line to be able to access them.

Roll out under the current contract will continue until the end of this financial year – with coverage expected to reach at least 76 per cent of Outer Hebrides’ premises. The Scottish Government has committed to 100 per cent access to broadband speeds of 30 Mbps download or more by 2021. It is currently planning the next phase of work to deliver this.”

Interestingly Openreach said that they are using this same technology to “serve many other remote areas of Scotland.” Planning permission has also just been granted for a Raasay mast and Coll, Morvern, Berneray, Glenelg, and St. Catherines will also benefit from WTTC in the coming months.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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