Highlands and Islands connects town on Isle of Lewis to BDUK fibre, with the promise of more connections next year
Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis has become the first location in the Outer Hebrides to gain access to superfast broadband, thanks to the Digital Highlands and Islands Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project.
Eleven cabinet across the town have now been upgraded in the first completed part of the £146 million scheme, funded by BT, the Scottish Government and the UK Government, which is one of two projects that consitute the £410 million Digital Scotland programme.
The first connections will be made soon with various providers offering services over the Openreach network, delivering speeds of up to 80Mbps. More island locations will be added next year.
In addition to the vastly superior local connections, local leaders say the new links to the mainland will offer ‘game changing’ capacity that will give local firms access to business broadband services previously unavailable on the islands.
The Highlands and Islands component of Digital Scotland has been described as the most complex subsea cable operation ever undertaken by BT in UK waters. The company has laid 250 miles of fibre across 20 separate seabed crossing in Scotland, with the 14,000 tonne ship Rene Descartes burying double-armoured cable across the 20 locations.
The longest cable route is the 50 miles between Ullapool to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, with the shortest the one mile between Ardgour on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula and Onich, south of Fort William. Orkney, Skye, Mull and are among the other islands to be connected.
“The scale of the challenge to bring modern, fast and reliable broadband to our remotest areas is huge,” claimed Alex Paterson, CEO of Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which has led the project. “On the Outer Hebrides the project has seen five sub-sea cables for inter-island and mainland links installed last year, and fibre cabling now runs the length of the islands.
“Over the course of the next year we will see the roll-out of this game-changing network reach at least 70 percent of premises across the islands. We won’t stop there and we are ambitious that the huge step up in capacity that it brings will help us find solutions for more and more people in even the hardest to reach areas.”
Since Digital Scotland started work, more than 275,000 properties have been connected and more than 3,400 kilometres of fibre laid. When combined with commercial rollouts, more than 1.5 million and homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband in the country.
The second phase of the project, announced in April, will connect a further 145,000 premises. The Scottish government claims more than 7,000 homes and businesses are being added each week.
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