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Scotland Set to Tender for Rural Project Gigabit Broadband Rollout

Wednesday, Mar 20th, 2024 (8:16 am) - Score 1,640
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The Scottish Government and the Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency have quietly revealed that they intend to publish the first official contract notice for the Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme in Scotland, starting this month. Some £450m has already been allocated (here) to help this project spread 1Gbps speeds across rural Scotland.

At present, around 74% of premises in Scotland can access a gigabit-capable (1Gbps download) broadband ISP network (here), which is expected to increase as commercial builds and the Scottish Government progresses their existing £600m Reaching 100% (R100) project. The R100 scheme largely involves extending “full fibre” (FTTP) networks to another 114,000 premises in areas that lack access to “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) speeds by 2027/28 – so far, it’s already covered 37,000 premises (here).

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

However, Ofcom recently predicted (here) that Scotland’s full fibre coverage would reach around 78-83% by May 2026, while gigabit-capable broadband (FTTP and Hybrid Fibre Coax / cable) would deliver 83-85% by that same date. Suffice to say that in terms of gigabit coverage, a gap will still be left for Scotland to fill once R100 completes and most of that will be in rural areas (only around 30% of rural Scotland can currently access gigabit speeds).

In keeping with this, the UK Government’s BDUK agency has previously estimated that some 410,000 premises across Scotland may need support from public funding to help them gain access to a gigabit (1000Mbps) broadband service (here) – this could rise further if existing plans (inc. commercial builds) fall short, but equally it may also shrink if those plans are successful.

The latest development

At the end of 2023 the Project Gigabit programme revealed that BDUK and the Scottish Government had been busy engaging the market (suppliers like BT, CityFibre, Nexfibre and smaller players etc.) on how best to conduct the procurement.

The “initial findings” from that work suggested that there was potential supplier interest in one large regional procurement and five smaller local procurements (Type A/B contracts) in the following areas; Borders, Midlothian, East Lothian Dumfries & Galloway, Fife, Perth & Kinross, Orkney, Shetland, Dundee, Aberdeenshire and Moray Coast. BDUK added that they would be looking at options for the rest of Scotland in more detail during 2024.

However, during ISPreview’s usual checks, we uncovered that the Scottish Government had last week issued a new Prior Information Notice (PIN) for “Project Gigabit in Scotland“, which reveals that the first local procurement in Scotland is expected to launch by the end of March 2024, covering the Borders and East Lothian areas – managed via BDUK’s Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS).

After that, a regional procurement, in the Dundee, Aberdeenshire, Angus, and Moray Coast area is expected to follow in the “coming months” (the “estimated” date for the publication of this is currently 30th April 2024). Such dates are of course indicative and subject to change.

The Scottish Government and BDUK have worked together to prepare further procurements, and these will be launched if and when we are confident that there is the market interest needed for them to succeed,” added the PIN. Any suppliers who would like to be included in future supplier engagement exercises are advised to email Gigabit@gov.scot .

Suffice to say that after several years of waiting, it looks like Scotland’s part of Project Gigabit will finally be entering the procurement stage within the next couple of months. But it could take around a year before the first contracts are awarded and the roll-out itself will then take several more years to complete (given the rural nature of the programme, we’d expect completion dates around 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:

    Naturally southern scotland at the fore in SNP procurement.

    North south divide aside, time will tell what the ‘market interest’ is in running fibre to dispersed Scottish rural homes, I dont think the fact poles are in place already makes it any more attractive a proposition.

    1. Avatar photo Great Scot says:

      Not when as happened here when an altnet turned up to use the poles under PIA and suddenly they all got D-notices placed on them.

  2. Avatar photo Ardacnet says:

    Lot 6 (The Type B lot covering Dundee, Angus, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City & Moray Coast) is the next Lot to move to procurement. That is a huge chunk of Scotland, with incredibly rural and complex communities to reach with gigabit capable infrastructure. It will be interesting to see which operators (if any) show an interest in such a huge area, in the majority of which Openreach is the sole full-fibre operator. There are approx 60,000 premises in Aberdeenshire alone, which fall into the bracket of better than superfast (so no support from R100 Programme), but no plans for upgrades to gigabit capable, and are classified as ‘rural’ by Project Gigabit definitions – therefore fall in the scope of intervention by Project Gigabit. With the GBVS scheme paused, and Project Gigabit procurement expected to take a year at best, its still going to be a fair while to see what the programme will actually look like in North East Scotland.

    1. Avatar photo GaryH says:

      Aye, Im most definately not excited by anything reported regarding the north east, I’ll be stunned if theres much progress at all by 2030 to be honest The numbers just dont add up.

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