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Scottish Government to Evaluate £600m R100 Broadband Project

Wednesday, Jan 24th, 2024 (10:27 am) - Score 2,120
scotland r100 broadband lots map uk

In an unsurprising development, the Scottish Government recently issued a new contract notice to help it commission an evaluation study of their £600m Reaching 100% (R100) “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) rollout programme with Openreach (BT), which will aim to assess the project’s Value for Money.

The R100 project was originally established as a follow-on programme to help upgrade around 180,000 premises that were, at the time, still stuck on slower broadband as a result of being missed by the original £442m Digital Scotland (DSSB) project. The focus was thus on the final c.5% of premises in Scotland who could not yet order a network capable of 30Mbps+ and the aim was to complete the rollout by the end of 2021.

NOTE: In Scotland the responsibility for broadband is reserved to Westminster, but that doesn’t stop local and devolved authorities from making their own investments (e.g. R100). Funding for R100 includes £592.2m of Scottish Government investment, £49.4m from the UK Government (BDUK) and £54.1m from BT.

However, the programme has suffered from numerous delays, as well as a legal challenge from Gigaclear (here), which means that today the goal largely involves extending gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband coverage to another 114,000 premises by around March 2028 – split across three R100 contract LOTs.

The LOT 1 (North Scotland and the Highlands) contract is expected to cover 60,764 premises (100% via FTTP) by 2027/28, while LOT 2 (Central Scotland) will reach 32,216 premises (95.6% via FTTP and the rest FTTC) by 2023/24 and LOT 3 (Southern Scotland) targets 21,889 premises (100% via FTTP) by 2024/25.

So far, more than 36,100 of the contracted premises (here) have already been covered (rising to c.48,000 if we include the impact from overspill and vouchers), although the programme is expected to slow as it shifts toward tackling the much more remote rural communities in LOT 1. But despite the huge delays, this remains a major build and one that should have plenty of positive impacts.

Naturally, such programmes do have to be evaluated (this is normal), which is where the latest contract notice comes in. The notice itself, which is open until 12th Feb 2024, doesn’t reveal much, only that the chosen organisation will work to assess the “Value for Money of this programme in terms of understanding the social, economic, environmental and other benefits to households, businesses and communities of improvements in broadband connectivity and speed.”

Separately, it’s worth noting that, according to the Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency, some 410,000 premises across Scotland may need support from public funding to help them gain access to a gigabit (1000Mbps) broadband service in the future (here) – this could rise if existing plans (inc. commercial builds) fall short. The UK Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit scheme has thus allocated £450m to help Scotland tackle this problem (here) and the related procurement is due to begin soon.

Ofcom recently predicted (here) that Scotland’s full fibre coverage will reach around 78-83% by May 2026, while gigabit-capable broadband (FTTP and Hybrid Fibre Coax) would deliver 83-85% by that same date, although commercial builds and R100 will continue to shrink this gap until c.2028. Project Gigabit aims for “nationwide” (c.99%) coverage of gigabit-capable broadband to be achieved by the end of 2030.

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
4 Responses
  1. Avatar photo GaryH says:

    Hmm, value for money is such a subjective concept even more so if its government funded projects. I’ll not judge too harshly theres bound to be some where the numbers served vs the cost are questionable. But as I already know R100 judged my area as Not worth funding nor likely to be covered commercially, it really makes no odds to me directly. It’d be nice to see a positive result.

  2. Avatar photo Anon Fish says:

    Might be an idea to build on the ones they have comissioned previously. E.g. https://www.scotlandsuperfast.com/media/5i3nzueg/analysys-mason-final-report-for-dssb-050419.pdf

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Pretty horrifying if they don’t have the intellectual capacity to evaluate such schemes in house.

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      It’s fairly normal to contract somebody else to do it, not least as it avoids the issue of being perceived to be marking one’s own homework.

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