Superfast Broadband to reach 25,000 more in Scottish Highlands

7 August 2018   By Jo Bailey

Thousands of additional properties in the Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides will be given access to fibre broadband as seven new exchange areas are added.

The work by Digital Scotland to bring fibre broadband to more properties in Scotland has been moving at a blistering pace. Having already achieved their target of 124,000 homes and businesses, the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project has announced an unexpected extension.

The extended rollout is set to bring superfast broadband to an additional 25,000 homes and businesses by the end of 2019. Announced by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, these additional areas will bring the total number of connected premises to almost 150,000.

The roll out is not stopping there either. Speaking at the Tomintoul Discovery Centre in the highest fibre connected village in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon commented that:

"We will build on this success and our Reaching 100% programme, backed by £600 million, will deliver superfast broadband access to every home and business in Scotland by the end of 2021 - the only part of the UK to do so."

scottish highlands - glencoe

The new exchange areas

This extension of the rollout is seeing seven new exchange areas being reached by the fibre network. These areas were not previously included in the plans or budget for the scheme, and they are:

  • Kilchenzie (Argyll and Bute)
  • Kilninver (Argyll and Bute)
  • Glendale (Highland)
  • Torridon (Highland)
  • Waternish (Highland)
  • Machrie (North Ayrshire)
  • Great Bernera (Outer Hebrides)

Once these new areas are connected, the proportion of the Highlands and Islands connected to the fibre network will be at 86%. To put that in perspective, before the DSSB project began, just 4% of the region had access to such a network.

Superfast or just a bit fast?

Over recent years, there has been some debate around what actually counts as 'superfast' broadband. Ofcom defines superfast services as having download speeds of 30 Mbps or more, whereas the UK government works on a speed of at least 24 Mbps.

Whichever definition is considered correct, however, many of these connections under the DSSB programme are failing to meet those minimum download speeds.

This is because many of the connections currently reported by the scheme are only fibre to the cabinet (FTTC). This means premises are reliant on old copper cables to bring the signal into the building, which limits download speeds for many users to 15 Mbps or less. This issue takes the number of premises in the Highlands and Islands able to order a superfast connection down to just 80%.

To be fair to the scheme, this is a huge challenge to overcome as many of the connected properties are widely dispersed and in very remote locations. However, it is hoped that over the course of the future implementation, more fibre to the premises (FTTP) will be installed to bring true superfast speeds to everyone, in line with Scotland's 'Reaching 100%' programme.

Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project

Launched in 2014, the scheme aimed to deliver superfast broadband to around 124,000 homes and businesses in the most remote areas of Scotland. Having achieved this target early, the programme is now being rolled out to additional premises, bringing the total delivery to almost 150,000 premises by 2019.

Funding partners for the DSSB project include the UK Government via Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), BT Group, local authorities and the EU through the European Regional Development Fund. The scheme is managed by the Scottish Government for the mainland and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for their region. Between HIE and Digital Scotland, £146m is being invested to roll out the fibre network.

So far, the scheme has seen 1,200km of fibre cable laid, 900 cabinets installed and provision for superfast broadband made across every local authority area in the Highlands and Islands.

This is part of a larger project to deliver high speed internet to everyone in the UK, where 9 out of 10 homes are now able to access superfast broadband. The Government has also pledged to bring full fibre (FTTP) connectivity and 5G available to the entire nation by 2025.

One recipient of the DSSB project in Scotland is the Tomintoul Discovery Centre, visited by Nicola Sturgeon in this latest announcement. The Discovery Centre is located in a community at 1,132ft above sea level, where fibre was installed in 2016.

The potential of the new technology has allowed the Discover Centre to bring local history to life, using virtual reality and other modern features which were not previously accessible to them. It is hoped that other enterprises and local businesses will benefit in similar ways.

Which broadband deals are available in your area?

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations and climate positive

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we have a climate positive workforce.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter