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Digital Scotland Lauds Fibre Broadband for 950K Extra Premises

Monday, July 27th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 1,602
950k connected properties Photocall for Superfast broadband.

The original £463m (public and private investment) Digital Scotland project with BT (Openreach) is arriving at completion and as such the scheme has today celebrated the fact that it has helped over 950,000 extra premises to access “fibre broadband” (FTTC and FTTP) services (pushing “superfast” 24Mbps+ coverage to 94%+).

The project, which has focused its efforts upon areas that either wouldn’t have been upgraded by commercial projects or might have otherwise had to wait years longer (if left up to the market), also notes that the contract has so far delivered 110,000+ more premises than originally planned (thanks in part to lower than expected costs and a reinvestment of funding via gainshare – example).

NOTE: The Scottish Government previously estimated that, without the scheme, only around 66% of premises would have gained access via commercial work. Upgrades are not automatic, you have to order it via an ISP.

The figure itself is only an increase of around 10,000 homes and businesses from around 10 months ago, but that’s partly because the main work had already completed and many of their final extension areas have focused upon building gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) instead of slower hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology. The FTTC service dominated much of Digital Scotland’s primary roll-out, until last year.

Across the country, Openreach engineers have now laid a whopping 16,730km of fibre optic cable – enough to stretch to the South Pole and beyond – including 400km of sub-sea cable, while 5,078 new FTTC street cabinets (DSLAMS) are also now live. Part of the funding for all this also came from the Building Digital UK programme.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Connectivity, said:

“I’m delighted that the programme has far exceeded its expected delivery target at the outset of and has gone on to provide better broadband technology to more than 950,000 homes and businesses all over Scotland – an amazing achievement. In the Scottish Borders alone, access to superfast broadband has also increased from 21% of premises in Jan 2014 to almost 88% now and, while we are putting in place investment to complete coverage, the progress made since 2014 is something that the DSSB team can be rightly proud of.

Having fast and reliable internet is absolutely vital to communities across the country. As we emerge from lockdown, it helps businesses stay connected with customers and colleagues, as well as helping families to stay in touch, learn, work, play and shop – over 65% of people who have fibre available to them have already signed up to receive services and that is more than double the take up that had been modelled.”

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Partnership director for Scotland, said:

“Bringing better broadband to nearly a million [extra] homes across rural Scotland – on time and on budget – has been a massive team effort.

We’ve seen how invaluable connectivity has been to our communities during lockdown – and it’s just as vital to help rural economies and businesses like Ridelines during recovery. The fibre cables reaching deep into rural Scotland will also help to extend other technologies, like 4G and 5G mobile services.

There’s more to do – and the success of our Digital Scotland partnership gives the nation a far-reaching fibre platform to build on for the next stage of the journey.”

Meanwhile Scotland and BT are currently busy entering the deployment phase for their £600m R100 (Reaching 100%) programme, which has been split across three LOTS. At present engineers are expected to reach around half of the target premises in LOT 2 and 3 – 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 (LOT 3 by summer 2024).

NOTE: R100 focuses on the final 5-6% of premises without superfast broadband or any future upgrade plans. The LOT 2 contract will upgrade at least 47,000 of these, while LOT 3 will do around 26,000. Nearly all with FTTP.

The R100 programme is currently running around two years behind its original plan and, more recently, the award of the largest LOT 1 (Northern Scotland) contract to BT has been placed into limbo by a legal challenge from rival ISP Gigaclear (here). The LOT 1 area is important because it represents the largest one (valued c.£384m) and reflects about 100,000 premises across the Highlands and Islands, Angus, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The related court case is currently going through the motions and there is hope of an outcome being reached before the end of 2020, when the current state aid agreement comes to an end (missing that deadline would cause further delays).

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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
13 Responses
  1. NGA for all says:

    They should tell BDUK ..https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Hs00bNsyRV1WoOt-fow3rsNXzpcKg26AsOWvk1bvJRk/edit#gid=1411146266 and Audit Scotland should update their report as well.

    1. CarlT says:

      Or they could save taxpayers’ money and run reports aggregating data periodically, as reports usually are for non-realtime activities involving enduring end results such as infrastructure build.

      The premises passed aren’t going to disappear. Once a year is fine.

    2. NGA for all says:

      CarlT ..not when BT’s capital contributions to allowable costs goes unreported, and Scottish full fibre will be impacted for years to come by the imposition of too much FTTC Cure. The latter must have assumed no FTTP in-fill.

      Each squeeze reduces the scope of R100 as well.

      Premises do not disappear but only because BT’s commercial footprint gets smaller.

      More transparency will continue to drive a better outcome. Audit Scotland should do an update given the numerical impossibilities in their last report. 5k cabinets/paths is ~£150m +£20m on fibres to the islands. Difficult to reach £463m.

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      As has been explained on this site many times before, the BDUK summary only includes premises receiving “superfast” speeds (usually 24 or 30Mbps+). By comparison Digital Scotland’s total also includes premises that have benefited from the so-called “fibre” upgrade, albeit which may not be able to receive superfast speeds. Sadly politicians always like to use the biggest figure and often without much context.

    4. NGA for all says:

      Mark, your opening sentence conflates 950k with 94% superfast with is part of the PR objective. Audit Scotland has found themselves part of this exercise as well. The gap with the BDUK number looks too large to be accounted by in-fill so there is extra build.

      I hope Digital Scotland or their agents see fit or indeed BT see fit to report that in the case of Scotland Capital Contributions – if 900k is superfast then has paid a direct contribution to allowable costs of £76.5m, and £300 for each of ~50k FTTP connection in line with their commercial case.

      Progress on this is good – (salut 10k FTTP in rural Scotland) and another audit report from another administration is due in the autumn. Much more to be squeezed but regional bids are needed to conclude works in England. Either that or the best of £1bn is pointed at a B-USO fund.

    5. Mark Jackson says:

      There’s pretty clear separation, I deliberately wrote “fibre broadband” after the 950K and then put the current level of “superfast” coverage in brackets as a % figure for separate context. I shouldn’t have to micro detail this stuff every single time, we’ve been over it literally hundreds of times before and you of all people should know. Stop the trolling.

    6. NGA for all says:

      Mark, that is not creating discord.

    7. CarlT says:

      Just the subsea sections of the core fibre build cost more than £20 million, ignoring the hundreds of kilometres of terrestrial network build required.

      Other than that I see little to engage with that hasn’t been many, many times before.

  2. q says:

    These press photos. Mountin biking in a suit and shoes!

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I’m sure it wasn’t in the least bit staged 🙂 , because we all go off-road mountain biking in our work suits.

    2. 125us says:

      Cotic are a famous Scottish bike manufacturer – maybe the extension has benefitted them?

  3. Brian says:

    But still no announcement of the R100 availability tool, due summer 2020.

    1. craski says:

      I suspect we’ll be waiting for quite some time for a decent checker tool, it may not ever be decent. The Digital Scotland (BDUK) tool never made it out of beta and still to this day displays a “beta in testing” banner!

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