Offshore work starts on faster broadband for islands

The Scottish Government said on Friday that offshore work to connect thousands of island homes and businesses to faster and more reliable broadband services has begun.

Installation of the first of 16 cables is taking place beneath the seabed around Shetland under the £384 million Reaching 100% (R100) North contract, being delivered on the ground by Openreach.

This will connect premises on 15 islands to faster broadband capable of one gigabit per second download speeds.

This is more than 30 times faster than the Scottish Government’s original commitment.

This stage, expected to be completed by September, is a significant step towards enhanced improved connectivity for people and communities on:

  • Colonsay, Iona and Lismore in Argyll and Bute Council
  • Eigg in the Highland Council area
  • Eday, Flotta, Hoy, Rousay, Sanday, Shapinsay and Stronsay in Orkney Islands Council
  • Fair Isle, Unst, Whalsey and Yell in Shetland Islands Council

The R100 North contract will connect more than 59,000 homes and businesses across the north of Scotland and islands.

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “This installation work demonstrates our commitment to extending access to faster broadband to all areas of Scotland.

“Once connected, future-proofed broadband will make it easier for islanders to keep in touch, work remotely and access services online.

“It will also benefit visitors and promote greater regional business productivity in line with our National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

“Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecommunications infrastructure, yet we are determined to deliver access to fibre broadband to every premise in the country.

“The laying of subsea cables to 15 islands across the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Shetland and Orkney represents welcome progress to achieving our ambition.”

Openreach chief engineer for Scotland Fraser Rowberry said: “We’re excited to see this mammoth subsea build get started after months of in-depth planning.

“Laying cables on the seabed is incredibly complex, with lots of environmental, engineering and logistical challenges.

“This is the first step in a technological sea change for some of our most remote island communities.

“Residents and visitors will see activity in the waters around Shetland, Orkney and the West Coast as work progresses this summer.

“Work on new landing points on the islands – which will link the new, subsea cables into the wider broadband network – is also progressing.

“Together these elements lay a crucial foundation for the islands’ future connectivity.”

Engineers on the Normand Clipper, the Green Isle, the Global Symphony and the CS Sovereign vessels are installing cables ranging from shorter routes between the mainland and Lismore in the Inner Hebrides to 71 mile connection between Shetland, Fair Isle and Sanday in Orkney.

The R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS) voucher – offering up to £5,000 per premises – is available to ensure those who will not benefit from the R100 contract build or commercial build have support to access a superfast broadband connection.

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.