Improving broadband access

Broadband mast above sea
Lisa Paton

Tens of thousands of rural and island homes and businesses in Scotland are set to access the UK’s fastest and most reliable broadband.

Scottish Government investment of £384 million through the Reaching 100% programme (R100) will see building of full fibre connections begin in September 2021 around Oban, Argyll and Bute, and Portlethen and Newtonhill, Aberdeenshire.

The R100 North contract will deliver full fibre broadband capable of one gigabit per second download speeds. This is more than 30 times faster than the original commitment to deliver 30 megabits per second.

More than 220km of subsea cables will ensure 15 more islands across Argyll and Bute, Highlands, Shetland and Orkney are connected to fast and reliable broadband. The R100 programme has so far enabled more than 3,400 more premises to access superfast broadband.

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes 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.”

Chair of Scotland’s Openreach Board Katie Milligan 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.”

The Reaching 100% (R100) programme will ensure every home and business can access superfast broadband, delivered through three strands of activity: R100 contracts, supporting further commercial coverage, and the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme.

The Scottish Government signed the R100 North Contract with BT in December 2020. Delivery partner Openreach was then asked to conduct a complex remodelling exercise to account for changes in commercial coverage.

Survey work to support delivery of the subsea cables began earlier this year and is due to be completed shortly. Survey work utilising vessel and light detection and ranging LiDAR technology has been carried out by Global Marine and Fugro on behalf of Openreach. Engineering work to install these cables is scheduled for Summer 2022.