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Nicola Sturgeon Gives Brief Update on R100 LOT1 Broadband Progress

Friday, January 21st, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 2,112
scotland r100 broadband lots map uk

The First Minister of the Scottish Government, Nicola Sturgeon, has issued a short update on the LOT 1 (North Scotland and Highlands) contract with BT (Openreach) under their £600m Reaching 100% (R100) project, which is extending “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) coverage across rural parts of Scotland (mostly via FTTP).

The LOT 1 contract, which is the largest of the three in the R100 programme (valued at £384m – with BT contributing £50m), was the last one to be awarded (here) after it was delayed by a legal challenge from rival bidder Gigaclear (here). It is expected to deliver faster broadband to cover a further 59,276 premises using gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology.

NOTE: At present around 95% of Scotland can access a 30Mbps+ network, while gigabit-capable broadband covers 60% (mostly thanks to Virgin Media’s HFC upgrade) and full fibre (FTTP) reaches 28% (here).

In addition, LOT 1 also includes a subsea fibre rollout (16 new links) to help connect 15 more remote islands (here), which is due to commence during summer 2022. However, the build under the LOT 1 contract is not currently expected to reach completion until sometime “during the financial year 2026/27.” The Digital Scotland checker should help people to find out whether or when they’ll benefit from the R100 programme.

Sadly, progress updates on R100 tend to be few and far between, but the MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, Finlay Carson, did yesterday succeed in extracting a brief update from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, which we’ll paste in full below.

Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Of course, broadband investment is reserved to Westminster. However, given the United Kingdom Government’s failure to deliver on that, alongside its failure to deliver on many other things, we have had to step in and make a difference.

The R100 north contract was signed in December 2020. Despite the pandemic, a huge amount of preparatory work has been completed since then. A remodelling exercise ensured that every connection that is delivered will be full fibre. Survey work has been done for more than 5,000 properties and 16 subsea cables, which will deliver vital backhaul connectivity to 15 Scottish islands.

We anticipate that, by the end of June, the north lot contract will have delivered more than 4,000 connections. The R100 Scottish broadband voucher scheme also ensures that everyone who wants a superfast broadband connection can now have one. Around 750 connections have already been delivered in the north of Scotland.”

As useful as such vouchers might be, we do continue to take issue with the decision to represent the interim voucher scheme as “ensuring that everyone who wants a superfast broadband connection can now have one,” which is an interesting way of interpreting such programmes. If that were indeed the case, then every government could use the same trick to say “job done“, and often without actually building anything.

The reality is that many people aren’t even aware that such schemes exist and, short of opting for a quick-fix via a satellite or a mobile broadband solution (where viable), any associated applications that require a new network to be established could still take many months to actually be built or delivered.

We note that SpaceX’s much improved LEO satellite service (Starlink), which may be a more attractive option for such vouchers, isn’t yet fully available across the Highlands and that won’t change until some unspecified time in 2023 (we ran a check using postcodes in Tain, like IV19 1AJ). One other caveat here is with the £89 monthly rental, which is too expensive to be considered affordable for everybody.

Nevertheless, it’s good to know that R100 progress is being made, even if it would be nice to get some more routine quarterly progress updates from the Scottish Government. Wink.. wink.. nudge.. nudge, anybody?

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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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11 Responses
  1. John H says:

    So of 59K they have delivered 750 or 1.3% and may get to 4000 by 1st Jul or 6.7%. What about R2 or R£ which started a lot sooner, I have been surveyed twice as the first survey was useless.

    1. Aled says:

      I was going to say, spending £380m to connect 60k properties is roughly £6.5k per property.

      That is a pace of approximately 100 per week until June 2022, when the rest of the UK is managing 60-100k per week?

      Glad to see it finally happening, but those numbers are high and slow.

    2. Alan says:

      @Aled
      You’re comparing apples with oranges as many R100 properties in N Scotland will be rural and in challenging terrain so naturally progress will be much much slower than the rest of the UK.

  2. GaryH says:

    She can spout whatever waffle she wants, Offering a voucher so that people can then try and navigate through the dozens of providers for a superfast connection while crowing that your remodelling of the contract now is going to give fibre to everyone else.

    1. Martin says:

      What value does your obviously politically slanted comment about “waffle” add?

      A lot of the money is being spent on enabling contracts such as undersea cables.

    2. John H says:

      Because waffle is all she does. The R100 original target was by end 2021 and now looks to finish end 2027. Hardly a successful project.

    3. GaryH says:

      @Martin, Of course it’s ‘Politically slanted’, Obviously, as you so astutely noticed. She is the leader of the political party responsible for R100, its failures and successes.

      You’re right a lot of money and planning has been spent on subsea cables, money that could have provided other connections at less cost per head. While I don’t disagree with providing the Islands with the connections whatsoever, to be one of those who R100 consider too expensive/difficult to include in the main program while apparently Subsea surveys and cable laying vessels are not.

  3. Brian says:

    A whole R100 update would have been useful. Still wondering on progress for Lot 3, a survey is no guarantee of anything happening. So far just had many years of false promises and totally inaccurate information.

  4. Ben says:

    Does R100 really mean (almost) 100% of properties will be getting the service?

    If so that’s pretty good!

    1. JAF says:

      No. It looks like they are now planning on upgrading only about 60% of the rural properties they originally promised to upgrade. There is no plan to provide any solution to the remainder other than giving them a “voucher”.

    2. GaryH says:

      It’s all got a bit messy to fair, its was 100 then it wasn’t, now we have the offer of £5k vouchers which in reality will cover some of the ‘left out’ to get ‘superfast’

      The salty wound for many will be that the superfast for all now looks like fibre for some.

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