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UPDATE Scotland Celebrates 90% Coverage of “Superfast Broadband”

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 (10:37 am) - Score 1,195

The Scottish Government has today claimed that their £428m Digital Scotland project with BT (Openreach) has successfully ensured that 750,000 extra Scottish homes and businesses can access a “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) service, with “superfast” speeds covering “more than” 90% of the country.

The programme currently aims to ensure that 95% of premises in Scotland are put within reach of the new “high speed fibre broadband” network by the end of March 2018, although sadly this figure drops to 86% for the rural Highland and Islands region by the end of 2017 (here). Most of the funding has come from public sources, with BT also contributing £126 million to the effort.

We posted an update on “superfast broadband” coverage across the United Kingdom last week (here), which estimated that over 89% of Scotland could access a fixed line “fibre” network capable of delivering speeds of above 30Mbps. Meanwhile the raw fibre footprint (includes both superfast and sub-24Mbps capable network coverage) stood at just shy of 94%, although official figures always tend to be a little more optimistic.

Fergus Ewing, Scottish Connectivity Secretary, said:

“I am delighted that more people are now able to benefit from fibre broadband, with over 750,000 premises across Scotland now able to connect. Businesses like this one here in Lochgelly – one of the 77,000 connected in the last six months – can now connect to their fastest-ever broadband speeds for the first time showing our investment in digital infrastructure is paying off.

The programme, is reaching more communities than originally planned and will continue to do so in the coming months. However, local people need to sign up for the new, faster services with an internet service provider, as upgrades are not automatic. I am of course aware that many homes and businesses do not yet have access. Under the further R100 contract, we will be proceeding with the next phase of our pledge to enable access to broadband for every home and business to Scotland within the lifetime of this Scottish Parliament.”

As hinted above, the work doesn’t stop once the current contract with BT comes to an end. The SNP ruled Scottish Government, which is headed by Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister), recently published their 2017 Digital Strategy for Scotland. This document reiterated last year’s R100 proposal by committing them to “extend superfast broadband access to all by 2021, while encouraging the growth of ultrafast services,” although we’re still waiting to get some more details on this (a public consultation was planned for Q2 2017).

Interestingly the SNP’s recent 2017 manifesto (here) stated that the current contract aims to “deliver superfast broadband to 95 per cent of properties across Scotland by the end of 2017,” which seems to ignore the March 2018 completion date on the project’s own website. The use of “superfast” also indicates speeds of 30Mbps+, although previously the 95% target was only ever spoken of as a reference to the raw fibre footprint.

digital scotland pledge

Suffice to say that politicians are notoriously terrible at clearly communicating their broadband targets and we suspect that Scotland, which has an awful lot of rugged rural terrain and sparse communities, may struggle to hit 95% coverage of “superfast” speeds by the end of 2017, although they’ll definitely achieve that figure in terms of the raw “fibre” footprint (including sub-24Mbps speed areas).

UPDATE 11:38am

In keeping with the above, the Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) have also announced that their half of the contract has so far extended “high speed fibre broadband” to an additional 160,000+ premises in the region, which they claim brings the total number (plus commercial roll-outs) of homes with access to fibre in the region to 205,000 or “around 84% of all premises“.

We note that last week’s independent estimates produced a “fibre based” coverage figure of 85.70% for the HIE region, albeit dropping to around 70% for those areas able to receive superfast broadband speeds of 30Mbps+. Officially today’s update re-confirms that “coverage is expected to reach 86% of premises by the end of the 2017/18 financial year“.

Fergus Ewing added:

“The Highlands and Islands project is one of the most challenging broadband infrastructure roll-outs in Europe.

When it started only 4% of the region’s premises could access next generation broadband. Every day roll-out reaches increasingly remote communities and smaller and smaller groups of homes, including locations like the island of Scalpay in the Outer Hebrides, and villages like Lonmore and Roskhill in Skye.”

The majority of the latest connections to be upgraded were previously on the dreaded Exchange Only (EO) lines, which require a complex and expensive network rearrangement to resolve.

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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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12 Responses
  1. craski says:

    Does the “raw fibre footprint” figure of 94% include all lines connected to a fibre cabinet, even those too far away from it or is there some other notional cut off point at the lower end?

    1. Yes, though always the risk that when updating for new cabinets the odd postcode at very long distances has been left stuck as Exchange Only for example.

    2. NGA for all says:

      Ofcom in 2015 state of the nation stated you needed to discount the connected to a cab by 7% to account for distance. Audit Scotland reported the cab left c14% of those connected without a ‘superfast’ service.

    3. Back in 2015 the 7% may have been correct, and the 15% from Audit Scotland may also have been correct at the time it was published.

      Extrapolation is a devil and with the infill and EO work that is on-going what was a fact a few weeks ago will no longer be.

    4. NGA for all says:

      I think it is safe to assume the more dispersed and rural population the less effective the cabinet becomes and unless in-fill is planned the problem gets worse.

      The challenge for Scotland is that BT’s commercial rollout was likely to be no more than 54% (1.4m premises, 3,500 cabs) and so to get to 90% they have funded 47 cabs in Croftfoot, Glasgow, 35 in Bishopriggs to name two. Thay may need doing but if the gap funding principle is working it means BT pays, allowing the funds for more in-fill in rural.

      The Scots should be clear on just how much they rather than BT has paid for. This should also be reflected in Ofcom’s decision on future pricing, something Ofcom seem determined to ignore.

    5. Ultraspeedy says:

      What reports is Andrew using for these updated figures?
      Or is it more of TBB waffy speed test data?

    6. CarlT says:

      When are you going to deliver the goods on all of this, NGA?

      Waiting on that report that puts the fire behind the smoke and puts nails into the BDUK coffin.

    7. TheFacts says:

      @NGA – ‘The Scots should be clear on just how much they rather than BT has paid for.’ Are they?

    8. NGA for all says:

      CarlT – Watch for the responses to Ofcom WLA consultation!

    9. NGA for all says:

      CarlT – the responses to Ofcom WLA consultation will have plenty of material. It is not about BDUK so much as how BT decided to use its power.

    10. NGA for all says:

      @The Facts, The Scottish Government have not made clear that BT Commercial coverage was less than 60% in Scotland, they have published nothing on BT’s capital contribution. In this respect the Scottish Government are underplaying their contribution to the rollout.

  2. hi says:

    Still no cab in my street

    in aberdeen city centre

    feels bad.

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