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Progress Update on North Scotland’s R100 Broadband Rollout UPDATE

Friday, September 3rd, 2021 (9:12 am) - Score 1,752
scotland r100 broadband lots map uk

The Scottish Government has today issued a progress update on their £600m Reaching 100% (R100) programme with Openreach (BT), which provides more detail on their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) dominated plan for extending “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) across the LOT 1 area – North Scotland and the Highlands.

Just to recap. The R100 programme, which was split into three contract LOTS, is largely focused on extending “superfast” connectivity across as much of the final c.5% of poorly served premises in Scotland as possible. For example, LOT 2 (Central Scotland) will reach 32,200 premises and 95.6% of those will be via FTTP (the rest is FTTC), while LOT 3 (Southern Scotland) will reach 20,700 premises and 100% of that is FTTP.

NOTE: The premises passed targets have shrunk since the contracts were awarded, mostly due to the wider than forecast reach of commercial builds (here and here).

By comparison, the award of the largest LOT 1 (North Scotland and the Highlands) contract took a lot longer (here) after it was delayed by a legal challenge from rival bidder Gigaclear (here). But the Scottish Government had previously said that they expected this rollout would finish by the end of 2026 and just 86% under LOT 1 would be via FTTP.

We should point out that additional funding from the UK government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme has already been used to convert some planned build of slower hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2) connectivity in LOT 2 to full fibre FTTP (here). The good news is that today’s progress update not only gives us more detail on the LOT 1 deployment plan, but also confirms that they’ve managed to swap more FTTC to FTTP.

What’s New?

Take note that the original LOT 1 contract was valued at £384m and this was said to reflect about 100,000 remote premises across the Highlands and Islands, Angus, Aberdeenshire and Dundee. The contract also specified 9 mandated areas where 25% of premises must be able to get speeds of at least 100Mbps (on a Gigabit-capable connection). In addition, it includes a subsea fibre rollout to 15 more islands (here), which is due to commence during summer 2022.

The good news is that the final LOT 1 deployment plan has now been added to the Digital Scotland checker, which appears to confirm that the contract will complete by the end of 2026 and should give residents a bit more certainty. A cursory glance also suggests that 100% of LOT 1 may be FTTP, but we’re currently still awaiting clarification of the exact figures.

The Scottish Government states that “tens of thousands of rural and island homes and businesses” will now benefit from LOT 1, which is lower than the previously announced figure of c.100,000, but that’s not a huge surprise due to the recent expansion of commercial builds by Openreach and other operators (i.e. shrinking the areas that need public support).

Kate Forbes, SG Economy Secretary, said:

“Accessing fast and reliable broadband has never been so important and for our more rural communities that is becoming increasingly vital. That is why the Scottish Government is making substantial investments in digital infrastructure to ensure all of Scotland has equal access to high speed internet.

The Reaching 100% programme is going significantly beyond our original commitment to provide superfast broadband and will now deliver the UK’s fastest and most reliable broadband for many businesses and homes.”

Katie Milligan, Chair of Scotland’s Openreach Board, said:

“As delivery partner, we’re designing a network that maxes full fibre for the North of Scotland. We are pleased to have worked so closely with the Scottish Government to ensure homes and businesses will make the move straight to the UK’s fastest, most reliable gigabit-capable broadband.

The arrival of ultrafast broadband will be a game-changer, placing rural residents and remote islanders firmly in the internet fast lane. They will see a huge difference for life and work generally, but future-proof connectivity will also boost fragile rural economies and address sustainability issues like depopulation.”

At this point we shouldn’t forget that the original R100 ambition was to bring 30Mbps+ speeds to “every single premises in Scotland” by the end of 2021 (March 2022 as a financial year), although ISPreview.co.uk has always viewed that target as being unachievable due to the length of time that it takes to build the new networks, but even we never expected the rollout to take this long (of course the original plan didn’t involve as much FTTP).

The Digital Scotland website still highlights, using bold text, that “additional support will be provided to ensure that everyone can access a broadband service that can support superfast speeds by the end of 2021,” but this is merely referencing the availability of their voucher scheme and does not reflect actual network availability (it takes a long time for a community to secure vouchers and then for the network build to begin). The reality is that it will still take until the end of 2026 for R100 to complete its build.

We note that since the R100 build began, earlier this year, the programme has so far only enabled more than 3,400 more premises to access superfast broadband. Suffice to say, there’s a long way to go. We recommend reading our recent interview with Openreach’s Director of Fibre Build for the UK, Andrew Hepburn, for more details on their plans for Scotland (here).

NOTE: BT has contributed £50m of private investment to R100, which is on top of the £604.5m in public funding.

UPDATE 1st October 2021

We don’t know why it had to take this long to get some basic details back on LOT 1 from the Scottish Government, which ended up going through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, but we do finally have our answers.

1. Precisely how many premises will be covered under LOT 1?

The contract we have signed with BT is expected to deliver to 59,276 premises. The total number of premises connected as a result of the contract may vary however due to matters beyond our control. For example if a property is demolished prior to a superfast connection being delivered it may be removed from the R100 Lot 1 (North) contract build plan.

2. What proportion of the LOT 1 deployment will be FTTP?

All of the R100 North contract build will be fibre to the premises (FTTP).

3. Is the completion date for LOT 1 still by the end of 2026?

We expect build in the R100 Lot 1 (North) contract to be completed during the financial year 2026/27.

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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
14 Responses
  1. James™ says:

    Scotland could go 100% full fibre by 2030!

    1. RobC says:

      Given the incredibly remote locations of a large number of properties in Scotland, it is unlikely that it will ever go 100% full fibre.

    2. Gary says:

      Sadly , the ‘Incredibly remote’ people aren’t really that remote by any normal persons perspective. Like me, I’m a mere 2.5 km from an FTTC cabinet and 5km from a town of over 10,000 but too remote to factor into any plans even R100. Remote in the Broadband world isn’t the same as what people envision.

    3. kuro68k says:

      Yes, it’s sad that they are aiming so low. 30mbps isn’t adequate today, let alone in the near future.

  2. craski says:

    For the first time ever my area is not #ExploringSolutions. Everything crossed that is full fibre so we are not immediately out of date when installed.

  3. Pedro says:

    I would settle being full fibre in a town of 7000 people yet I still dont have it, no date either for my council area or even my town!!!!!!

    Grrr

    1. GaryH says:

      what do you get ?

    2. Pedro says:

      I was getting 65Mb’s via FTTC when I took out the line, now its barely above 40Mb’s now 6 years later.

      Its hit and miss if I can keep a Youtube 4k Stream going all the way through without caching stops or downgrade of the bitrate/resolution.

      I thought it got better once I paid for Premium but its back to being crappy at times for 4K, iDNet ISP is generally good and I’m paying for priority on their network hops as well.

    3. James says:

      Barely above 40Mb’s sounds brilliant, I would love to have that. I will continue to chug along with a mere 0.5-2Mb’s 🙂

  4. M Copland says:

    Roll out plan for North is completely unacceptable. I live 9 miles from Aberdeen (so hardly remote) and according to the plan will get superfast in 2026. The voucher scheme is a joke if you want something you can use for video conferencing. No decent 4G signal, no wireless offer so basically a waste of time.

    1. ian barker says:

      Yes, it is quite pathetic. I am less than 3 miles from Elgin. Fibre runs less than 1 m to the copper to exchange and copper to premises cabinet I am connected to. Fibre is less than 800 m to my house. They are always having joint failures and open reach spend so long in repairs they would be better just getting the fibre to premises. Yet, no sign at all. Not interested in the vouchers, just want 10 Mbps please. So many broken promises by the SNP!

  5. Grant Feasey says:

    R100 useless for me. Like many I’ve waited years to act in case I’d inadvertently rule myself out of the R100 roll out. Now I find that my area is excluded from the Openreach contract despite only being 5 miles from 2 sizeable towns and less than 2 miles from the A96 trunk road. I have contacted 4 of the listed suppliers at the start of the month about the voucher and only received 1 automated response to say they are too busy. There are approximately 30 addresses in my postcode in the same position who I would say barely qualify as remote compared to many. Let down to say the least.

  6. ian barker says:

    We are the same less than 3 miles from Elgin, less than 800 m from fibre and fibre less than 1 m from our cabinet. Very disappointed, all broken promises!

  7. James Gordon says:

    In the Scottish Borders. We were not connected in the r100 rollout. Lot 3 contract says 100% connection FTTP. 6 + near neighbours were. We were randomly ? Left out, with fibre only to our nearest distribution point 200 metres away. Open reach say they will never connect us. I have tried to use the 5k vouchers but nobody will connect us although one company offered to put a wireless connection in a neighbours garage!!

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