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Scotland Officially Hits 95% Fibre Broadband Coverage Target

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018 (7:48 am) - Score 2,273

The Scottish Government has today announced that 95.5% of homes and businesses across Scotland should be able to order a “high speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) based internet line, although this figure drops to just 92.7% when considering those able to access “superfast broadband” speeds of 24Mbps+.

The target has been achieved thanks to the £428m Digital Scotland (DSSB) project with BT (Openreach), which has been busy rolling out a mix of their ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) and a small bit of Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology (not to mention separate commercial deployments from Virgin Media etc.).

We should point out that the DSSB contract was split into two regional halves – ‘The Rest of Scotland‘ and ‘The Highlands and Islands‘- and the coverage target actually drops to just 86% for the rural Highland and Islands region alone (here). In addition, £280m of the £428m total reflects public funding.

Interestingly today’s news differs somewhat from Thinkbroadband’s most recent Q1 2018 independent coverage modelling estimates (here), which for once look more optimistic than the official figures. We suspect this may be because they’re are using more current data.

Area % Fibre based % Superfast 24Mbps+ % Superfast 30Mbps+ % Ultrafast 100Mbps+ % Under 10Mbps USO
Rest Of Scotland 97.20% 94.70% 94.40% 47.20% 4.40%
Scotland (Overall) 96.90% 93.60% 93.20% 43.30% 5.60%
Highlands and Islands Only 90% 79.30% 78.10% 0.30% 16.50%

NOTE 1: The term “fibre based” above includes fibre optic and hybrid fibre solutions, such as FTTP, FTTC / VDSL2 / G.fast and Cable (DOCSIS), albeit without any definition of speed (e.g. some FTTC lines will deliver speeds below 24Mbps).

NOTE 2: Nearly all of the “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) coverage is coming from Virgin Media’s cable network, although Openreach, Hyperoptic, Cityfibre and others all have big “full fibre” (FTTP/H) expansion ambitions for related services and the rapid 330Mbps G.fast roll-out to 10 million UK premises by 2020 should also help.

Overall the Scottish Government claims that their DSSB project has so far reached more than 890,000 premises and the programme is expected to continue to deploy during 2018 thanks to various extension arrangements. Across the country around 4,400 new FTTC street cabinets are now live and more than 9,700km of cable has been laid, including 400km for subsea cabling, by engineers from Openreach.

Fergus Ewing MSP (SNP), Connectivity Secretary, said:

“Fast and reliable internet is fundamental for the future economic and social success of communities right across Scotland.

This is a landmark for the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, which has connected around 890,000 premises to fibre broadband, and is ensuring Scotland can offer world-class digital infrastructure.

However, we want to go further, and we are now focusing on delivering our £600 million ‘Reaching 100%’ programme, which is the biggest public investment ever made in a single UK broadband project. This will make sure every single premise in Scotland can access a speeds of at least 30Mbps by the end of 2021.”

Robert Thorburn, Fibre Partnership Director for Openreach Scotland, added:

“Everyone at Openreach is massively proud to be part of the Digital Scotland project. The scale of the challenge of delivering fibre broadband the length and breadth of Scotland is huge. Our planners, engineers and contractors have worked flat out to make sure we reached 95 per cent of Scottish premises on time and on budget.

Latest stats show that 92.7 per cent of households and businesses in Scotland can now get a superfast service of 24Mbps or faster. Further high-speed coverage is planned throughout 2018 as part of the extended build work within the current project. It’s been fantastic working hand in hand with our partners in the public sector to make this happen for Scotland.”

As above, the Scottish Government are now developing their £600m R100 programme, which aspires to make 30Mbps+ capable superfast broadband networks available to “every single premise in Scotland” by the end of 2021 (here and here) or March 2022 as a financial year. Several suppliers including BT, Gigaclear, Axione and SSE Enterprise Telecoms are known to be bidding.

However, we should point out that the current R100 contract states that there are 178,948 premises eligible for intervention across three regional lots, although it’s been previously predicted that around 280,000 premises could be left without access to superfast broadband once the DSSB project completes.

The proposed time-scale for R100 doesn’t leave much time for actual deployment and on top of that the Scottish government continues to battle with the UK government (here) over a perceived conflict with the 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which is due to be introduced from 2020.

Suffice to say that the current R100 target should be considered subject to change and we won’t know what kind of % coverage will actually be achieved by R100 until later this year or early 2019.

Remember that faster connectivity is not an automatic upgrade, you have to actually order the service from an ISP in order to receive it.

SIDE NOTE: Today’s announcement represents one of the first times that the Scottish Government has ever actually provided an official % coverage figure for speeds of 24Mbps+.

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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.
Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. New_Londoner says:

    An eye-catching headline from the Scottish government, until you realise that it refers to fibre broadband coverage and not superfast availability. How unusual for politicians to mislead!

    1. NGA for all says:

      The Scottish Government could have written a few others, ‘we have now invested in 1,000 more cabinets than BT Commercial activity’. Without the public investment there would be no FTTP in hard to reach areas. Scottish have needed to do far more in Glasgow that expected, but we expect these funds to be recovered although we could be waiting until 2023 for most of this as BT has only released the first £130m of the £527m capital deferral.

      Our commercial confidentiality agreement prevents us from publishing the status of various funding pots, including the status of BT’s capital contribution, and how these might be converted into more coverage. We salute the engineering effort but so much more is possible, given costs are lower than originally portrayed and customer demand is much higher.

  2. Matthew Williams says:

    For such a rural part of the U.K. this is a huge achievement. R100 is definitely ambitious pity something can’t be found for the rest of the U.K.

  3. GNewton says:

    Quite a misleading headline. Fibre broadband coverage in Scotland is probably no more than a few percent, if at all.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Unfortunately this is the terminology that Digital Scotland use, which is why in the context I put that inside of speech marks and explain the caveats (we try to avoid putting speech marks in titles too as it can cause problems with SEO).

    2. GNewton says:

      Fair enough. SEO technologies can be quite strange at times.

    3. James says:

      “The term “fibre based” above includes fibre optic and hybrid fibre solutions, such as FTTP, FTTC / VDSL2 / G.fast and Cable (DOCSIS)”

      This literally applies to every single mention of broadband in UK politics since forever.

  4. Voucher Smith says:

    Absolute nonsense. I live not even a mile away from a village that has so called fibre and we do James t even get 5mb. There are at least 20 houses in my area that cannot get ‘fibre’ as BT and the Scottish government won’t spend the money. The so called ‘fibre’ in the village does not work half the time.

  5. Lindsay Duncan says:

    Open Reach may be willing, but BT Retail is not. Innerleithen was one of the first Scottish rural exchanges to have a fibre connection. Cardrona village was connected in 2012. Houses on the old Cardrona Estate were switched to fibre enabled cabinet 5 for a few days and then all switched back to their original cabinet 2 where the copper distance was too great for fibre connection. Since then 2 houses have been switched again and are now fibre connected at cabinet 5 with speeds of 17Mbps. The remainder of old Cardrona Estate have speeds of around 2Mbps. All very arbitrary – no explanation given, and particularly galling with FTTPoD prices so high.

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