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Scotland Reveal R100 Full Fibre Broadband Rollout Plan to 2023

Thursday, January 9th, 2020 (4:57 pm) - Score 6,720
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The Scottish Government‘s Minister for Connectivity, Paul Wheelhouse, has today issued an update on the progress of their much delayed £600m R100 (Reaching 100%) project, which confirms how many premises will benefit in each area and what technologies will be used. Sadly the rollout will complete in 2023, rather than 2021.

Just as a quick recap. The R100 project was established as a follow-on contract to help upgrade around 180,000 premises that were still stuck on slower broadband services, largely as a result of being missed by the original £442m Digital Scotland (DSSB) project with BT (Openreach).

Overall the above represents around 5% of premises in Scotland who cannot yet order a 30Mbps+ capable “superfast broadband” ISP network and the ambition was to do “as many premises as possible” by the end of 2021 (originally they suggested it may be possible to cover every property by 2021 but that always seemed unrealistic).

Back in October 2019 it was announced that BT had won the contracts for both LOT 2 (Central Scotland) and LOT 3 (South Scotland), which was due in no small part to them being the only bidder (here). The award of LOT 1 (North Scotland) took longer (here), partly because several suppliers were involved in the bidding (BT, Axione UK and Gigaclear) and additional requirements came attached, although BT was again the preferred bidder.

The project, which at this point was already running a year behind schedule, then suffered another blow after Gigaclear lodged an unspecified legal challenge against the LOT 1 award (here). As such today’s update only covers LOT 2 and 3 until the legal case can be resolved.

NOTE: LOT 1 is also the biggest one (valued c.£384m) and reflects about 100,000 premises in the Highlands and Islands, Angus, Aberdeen and Dundee. It also specified 9 mandated areas where 25% of premises must be able to get speeds of at least 100Mbps (on a Gigabit-capable connection).

The R100 Rollout Plan

* Some £83m of investment will go toward LOT 2 (Central), while £133m will go toward LOT 3 (South).

* In LOT 3 some 99% of the 26,000 eligible premises will be reached by the roll-out (only c.200 premises have been missed off). As expected “all” of this build will be via “full fibre” (FTTP).

* In LOT 2, of the eligible 55,000 premises, the contract they have signed with BT – alongside greater than anticipated commercial build – will reach at least 47,000 premises or almost 87% of them. The remainder will require to be connected by alternative means. As expected the “vast majority” of R100 build in central Scotland will use “full fibre” (FTTP)

* Engineers will reach around half of the target premises in both lots – approximately 23,000 in Central and 12,000 in the South – by the end of 2021, with the majority of the build completed by the end of 2023. “Presiding Officer, I acknowledge that this, on its own, would be insufficient to enable superfast access for all homes and businesses by the end of 2021 as promised.”

* Premises that are beyond the reach of R100 will benefit from a new voucher scheme (set to launch “later” in 2020), which is not a surprise but the next bit is more interesting. “I can further advise that anyone who will not be able to access superfast broadband through the R100 programme by the end of 2021 – even if R100 will ultimately reach them – will also be eligible for that voucher scheme.”

This will be open to both homes and businesses. The voucher scheme will also allow people to obtain superfast broadband (30Mbps+) from other sources, from satellite operators to fixed wireless/mobile operators and larger fibre suppliers, “ensuring superfast access for all premises in the agreed timescale” (NOTE: It will only “ensure” that if all of those eligible were to actually take one and that doesn’t usually happen).

Premises in LOT 1 will also be able to access the voucher scheme. Sadly no further details on the eligibility criteria or voucher values were released.

We assume LOT 1 will also be similarly dominated by FTTP and likewise would take longer than expected. Otherwise we note that Openreach is currently updating its own modelling to reflect the aforementioned changes. “Once this is completed and detailed survey work has been undertaken, I will be able to share specific details of the roll-out plans down to premises level.”

Mr Wheelhouse said:

“This roll-out means Scotland will have enhanced digital connectivity years ahead of the rest of the UK.

R100 will ensure that Scotland is ahead of the curve, not just in the UK, but internationally. Through our investment, we will extend full-fibre broadband to much of rural Scotland, going beyond our original commitment, and helping to deliver future-proofed economic, social and environmental benefits for the whole country.

This is one of the most challenging broadband infrastructure builds anywhere in the world, and this, combined with the decision to future-proof our technology, means the work will take time to complete.

We are also setting up a voucher scheme which will launch later this year. This will provide grants to broadband customers, ahead of the delivery of the R100 contracts, to support access to a range of technologies and suppliers.

It is disappointing not to be able to announce details of the contract for the North Lot due to a dispute over the awarding of the contract, but the Scottish Government is doing its utmost to ensure that people in the north of Scotland can access superfast broadband through the R100 programme as soon as possible, including through our voucher scheme.”

A big question mark sadly still exists over how this will be balanced against the UK Government’s proposal to invest £5bn to ensure that every home can access a “gigabit-capable” broadband service by the end of 2025 (here). Naturally the Scottish Government has demanded their fair share, although it may be awhile longer before we know what the new framework looks like.

Lest we forget that the Scottish Government’s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing (MSP), previously pledged to quit if he failed to deliver on the new £600m R100 project (here). “If I don’t deliver this by 2021, I think it will be time for Fergus Ewing to depart and do something else, and leave the job,” said Fergus. The suggestion above seems to be that their voucher scheme might get around this but that seems unlikely, unless every eligible property magically takes it up and gets covered by 2021 (wishful thinking).

On the whole though it looks like Scotland is on the right path, although some of the subsidy levels are certainly at the extreme end. Admittedly this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since the LOTs aim to cover the most remote rural communities, where costs quickly spiral upwards. At the end of the day if you want to reach those areas then it won’t come cheap and Scotland has put down enough money to do it.

Leave a Comment
21 Responses
  1. Avatar craski says:

    Sounding positive regarding the amount of FTTP. I’m in Lot 1 and very much hope that follows a similar logic, I’d be gutted to get to 2023 and be connected via FTTC!. I also hope that R100 actually publish the rollout plans, the rollout plans provided throughout BDUK were totally inadequate.

  2. Avatar Brian says:

    I’m in lot 3, not holding my breath until more details are available for which premises going to be upgraded, and which are not.

    “BT is currently updating its own modelling to reflect these changes. Once this is completed and detailed survey work has been undertaken, I will be able to share specific details of the roll-out plans down to premises level.” Hopefully that will happen and not have the same issues with very poor information from Superfast Scotland.

  3. Avatar Gary says:

    87% in Lot 2 isnt looking promising for Lot 1, despite a much larger slice of the funding pie Lot 1 also has the lowest percentage penetration from previous programmes and the largest area.

    I’ll not speculate too much until there are some solid numbers attached to the Lot 1 plan, But I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the % FTTP reaches anywhere near the other two Lots.

    Ok its going to be late, but I think we all knew that, it was an unrealistic timescale.

    1. Avatar Gary says:

      Cant edit posts, just wanted to add, A large area of Lot 1 is actually totally uninhabited mind you.

  4. Avatar joe says:

    “If I don’t deliver this by 2021, I think it will be time for Fergus Ewing to depart and do something else, and leave the job,”

    More chance of finding Nessie than the SNP accepting accountability for anything.

    1. Avatar Jonathan says:

      To be fair to Fergus Ewing, the delays are around central UK government changing the rules, and the bidders suing one another in court. That is the delays are totally outside his control. I have never voted SNP in my life and voted remain, but fair is fair the delays where not his fault.

    2. Avatar joe says:

      Even if GC hadn’t objected they were never meeting 21 – this scheme has been handled by Sco just as councils do their own schemes. The idea it would have all happened on time but for West delaying is a joke.

  5. Avatar Marty says:

    SNP are a waste of time too busy scheming with independence and dragging Scotland into oblivion.

    1. Avatar Adam says:

      Who spit in your tea

  6. Avatar Shelby says:

    I’m on the line between Lot 1 and Lot 2, is there a more detailed version of the coverage map available?

    1. Avatar Gary says:

      Also wondered about this issue, I haven’t seen any detailed info on where the actual lines between the Lots are being drawn yet. There’s potential there for say 1 side of a street being done and the other not as its in the adjacent lot. I really do hope there’s a sensible and cost effective process in place to avoid these kind of situations

  7. Avatar Lewis says:

    Lot one we have FTTC at around 70Mbs and paying an extortionate price for it.

    This is still too slow. With people I speak to in the States on 300 plus for less.

    Concentrating on rural areas seems pointless when even the larger cities where the majority work and live don’t have access to modern speeds.

    Investing in wireless based, I.e. mobile and sat would surely be cheaper than FTTC in these areas.

    1. Avatar craski says:

      Concentrating on rural areas is exactly what R100 was created to do. If you already have 70Mb FTTC then R100 is very unlikely to provide any improvement on that for you.

    2. Avatar Gary says:

      Sorry But moaning that you ‘Don’t have access to Modern Speeds’ when you have a high end FTTC speed was intended as sarcasm surely.

      R100 aims at its lowest target point to provide the bottom tier speeds to people who have the poorest connections and where commercial investment isn’t likely.

      Sat is a poor option and does nothing to improve penetration of the high speed network, FTTC may in some areas still be viable technically but it would still be a stop gap solution incurring more costs later to upgrade again.

      Comparing other countries speeds and costs is futile, and the market in the USA has massive variation in what tech/speed is avaliable and pricing. Petrol in the US is much cheaper than here too but so what.

    3. Avatar Alex says:

      Rural Ontario (very similar to rural scotland, in fact harder due to lower population density) is getting gigabit full fibre laid and has been for the last 3 years and cheaper per month than here (ditto for other rural areas in Canada). Rip off UK again.
      So once again its bluster and downright lies from the SNP, always claiming world firsts to grab positive headlines, promising grand things then walking them back rapidly and relying on the populace not being aware of whats going on elsewhere or being gullible enough to swallow their propaganda.
      Ewing beginning to sound totally like Trump, talking about himself in the third person….then again the whole party apes trump with their “misreporting Scotland” “Biased BBC” “Mainstream media lies” aka “fake news media” aka “Lugenpresse”

  8. Avatar Mark Devlin says:

    I’m in the central belt and have access to FTTC. I can see why the rural communities will be happy with R100 as many will hopefully have access to FTTP. However, for those of us on FTTC, this news is dissappointing. It seems that their is no plan for a full FTTP rollout which is what we actually need.

    If rural communities have better ineternt access than everyone else, then surely this in itself creates an imbalance?

    I see England is pushing for a complete FTTP rollout. An ambitious plan, but one which should be undertaken. It is dissappointing that Scotland will fall behind when it regularly likes to take the lead.

    1. Avatar Alex says:

      Only takes the lead when the SNP can rush something out half thought out, just to be “first” after sitting on their hands for 5 to 10 years, pleading poverty to justify said inaction whilst squandering vast sums of money on whatever is the latest party porkbarrel policy (Named person, £8 million handed to private bus companies, baby boxes, Equally Safe (when in fact its a socially conservative policy aimed at policing the behaviour of men and women and banning any “adult materials” as “misogyny” – the list goes on and on and on and on)
      Scottish politicians are utterly incompetent and the SNP have no clue, just look at Humza Yousef, serial failure as a minister but due to his loyalty to the FM, he just keeps climbing the ranks higher and higher despite being utterly incompetent.
      See also their DAWAP replacement for PIP, much fervour about how it was going to follow “best practice” be fairer and meet the needs of the disabled, instead its just a tartan hued clone of PIP delivered at vast expense and paying the disabled still some of the lowest amounts in the world and forcing even those with degenerative diseases to go through regular demeaning assesments (same assessments as PIP despite the SNP condemning them as inhumane and not fit for purpose less than 3 years ago….more and more like the Tories / Nu-Labour every week under Nicola Sturgeon) –

  9. Avatar Phil Murrie says:

    I’m in Perthshire (Blairgowrie). Are we include in the R100?? Our internet at the moment is rubbish. Have had Open Reach Engineers out here(sometimes two at the same time on average 3 x per week since before lock down began as our connesction is that bad. If so, when are we likely to get it??

  10. Avatar Rural Communications Peter says:

    R100 has Scotland stuck between a dialup modem and a copper cable. SNP fail to keep their party in line let alone see their own propaganda (cough! I mean policies) through to delivery. I firmly believe that wireless services are what rural areas need to focus on. Sat. Comms are poor but fixed wireless and mobile data are vastly superior aside from some susceptibility to weather, topography and natural barriers. The main barrier to wireless broadband is the naive gullible idiots burning 4G antennas (thinking they’re 5G!) for causing and spreading Covid-19. I have applied to the USO for my copper only area and was advised that I don’t qualify as I’m in an area where mobile data speeds are up to 30Mbps…. My own testing was confirmed by tier 2 EE engineer, that the sole 4G mast in my area was maxing out at 7.5Mbps. so it’s not just that easy to say I’ll wait for R100 or gigabit vouchers. If BT get they’re highly compartmentalised sanitised hands on lot 1 then the fate of fixed line broadband here is doomed to bureaucracy. I’ve not come across a BT (or when it was BT openreach) engineer that was able to fully install a service. It needs 3 mid management watching and 2 engineers. One to connect the line and the other presses the power button. At no point do they communicate what the other has done back to management. (Sorry rant tangent there). In essence Scotland is primed for a wireless infrastructure to preserve the wild landscapes from cables as long as Holyrood can spin some propaganda in favour of 5G instead of silently supporting the muppets damaging the 4G infrastructure.

  11. Avatar ian barker says:

    I am less than 3 miles outside Elgin, yet this morning my speed was 2.35mbps.
    I am connected to cabinet number 3 which is connected to the Lhanbryde exchange. It is copper to the cabinet, the only one which doesn’t have fibre to the cabinet.
    earliere this year they ran fibre to a new cabinet 3 km down the road from us, less than 1 m from our cabinet. As a result of laying the fibre we were without any sort of line for 4 weeks.
    We are so much life in the slowlane. The north appears to be part of a legal challenge, get it sorted for goodness sake!!! I tried the universal service obligation and they came back with a cost of £100K, joke.
    SNP record on this has been shocking, we are being left behind other economies.
    very very poor.

  12. Avatar Graham says:

    In the early 1980’s, pre-privatised British Telecom(and pre Openreach) had well developed equipment and plans for full fibre to the premises for the whole of the UK completely replacing all copper lines. This was a twenty year project involving substantial amounts of money. To embark on this they needed a guarantee from the UK government that they would remain a monopoly landline telephone provider and therefore have the twenty year funding necessary to complete this. Sadly Margaret Thatcher’s government did not appreciate the world beating importance of what was before them. Westminster decided to sell off BT and bring in ‘competition’ in the form of Richard Branson’s Virgin and many others. All this BT technology was bought by South Korea and is now where every premises there has had gigabit internet for years.

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