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Scotland starts ball rolling on 100% superfast coverage procurement
Saturday 10 September 2016 22:00:05 by Andrew Ferguson

The Scottish Government has published a Prior Information Notice on its R100 project that is the Scottish Government's ambition to bring 100% superfast broadband coverage to Scotland. The definition of superfast is 30 Mbps and faster and thus this exceeds the Westminster USO of a minimum 10 Mbps by a long way.

"The purpose of this programme is to facilitate the deployment of infrastructure that will support superfast broadband connections (i.e. above 30 megabit per second (Mbps)) to premises that will not receive such a service with existing or planned infrastructure by the end of 2021 with significant progress by the end of 2018."

Extract from notice

The prior notice is so that potential suppliers can engage and thus the Scottish Government get an idea of what providers and technology options are open to them and we presume get some ball park ideas of the cost. The existing BDUK process comprises of the Highlands and Islands in one project, and the Rest of Scotland, running alongside a number of community initiates - the indications are that we can expect several procurements/lots to make up the contracts in taking coverage from whatever the contracts with BT deliver to the 100% mark.

We have re-worked our coverage data to allow us to express it in terms of the rural/urban definitions that are used in Scottish political circles and the progress over a number of years, along with the relative sizes of each area of Scotland is shown below. The interesting part with the BT projects marching onwards to a 95% fibre based coverage target what will the rural/urban splits look like.

Area% of Scottish PremisesSuperfast Coverage 30 Mbps and faster
Large Urban Area 40% 69.3% 69.7% 74.5% 81.4% 87.8% 93% 96.1%
Other Urban Area 28.8% 42.7% 45.1% 50.5% 66% 85.1% 90.1% 94.4%
Accessible Rural 12.7% 4.1% 4.8% 6% 9.6% 20% 44.1% 58.5%
Accessible Small Town 8.5% 4.5% 4.5% 6% 12.8% 48.1% 73.6% 86.6%
Remote Rural 3.3% 0% 0% 0.6% 0.7% 6.9% 26.3% 42.5%
Very Remote Rural 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 11.7% 33.5%
Remote Small Town 2.4% 0% 0% 5.5% 5.5% 36.4% 72.3% 86.8%
Very Remote Small Town 1.3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 9.5% 71.1% 87.5%

Correction Monday 12th September: Due to the various methods used to record the go live date for various areas the original data analysis included some cabinets that had actually gone live later in the time lines. We have re-run the data analysis and updated figures are shown above. The result of this is that the change over time is much more pronounced in the more rural areas and this may not be a popular sentence with those who have not benefited from the project yet, but the corrected figures highlight the level of change the project has brought to rural areas of Scotland.

The pace of change for the different areas of Scotland shows that while the commercial roll-out was handling the most urban areas, it was not until the Scottish projects started deliver did significant improvements happen in the smaller towns, and the figures also show the amount of work left to do in the most remote areas where the distances involved highlight the problems of any technology that has distance limitations (VDSL2 in this case) since VDSL2 has passed some 53.5% of Very Remote Rural premises but it is only 33.5% that qualify as superfast at 30 Mbps and faster..


Posted by pipcoo 7 months ago
Wish they would do something like this for N. Ireland.
Posted by jumpmum 7 months ago
Have you an error in the 'Very remote Rural' It seems odd that they were at 14.6% in 8/2010?

Could be that an area is in the wrong definition! I would have expected it to be below the 'remote rural' & 'Remote small town'.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
The alignment of postcodes to each of the definitions is done via ONS data, so if postcodes are wrongly assigned it is not us, but their data and this will have impacted on many other datasets too.

Suspect it is just a quirk of the commercial roll-outs, i.e. while concentrated on urban areas there has always been a scattering of odd cabinets in rural locations.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
Am running the analysis and logging out all the Very Remote Rural locations so I can look at the possible anomaly.

Interestingly if there is an error it probably means that the Scottish projects have actually done better, i.e. going from an even lower figure in some areas to the current levels.
Posted by WildCottage 7 months ago
I live in an small accesible rural village, right next to an enabled exchange (Craignure) but no one in the village can get superfast broadband. We're told that we might have it by the end of the year; but I'll believe that when I see it! In the meantime BT seem to be struggling with EO lines in our area; nothing has been done and no sign of any work on the project.
Posted by New_Londoner 7 months ago
The Openreach checker suggests cabinets on the exchange have already been enabled, including at least one serving Craignure (Craignure 1).
Posted by jimwillsher 7 months ago
The biggest killer for most of Scotland is EO lines. Everyone on our exchange is EO, there are no cabinets. And if OR solve that by placing cabinets outside our exchange then it will only benefit the one property that's beside the exchange - all the rest are about 1.8 km away in a cluster.

Yes the logical thing would be to put the cabinet near the cluster, but between the exchange and the cluster the 100-pair cable runs along the grass verge - not buried; in the grass. So I doubt OR will lay fibre along the verge - so they'll put a cab by the exchange!
Posted by themanstan 7 months ago

If OR did it as a LR VDSL2, which is in trials, everyone will get ~30 MBps

Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
The LR-VDSL article on here a month ago reckoned that Scotland had 5.5% of its lines as being EO - slightly less than Yorkshire, but more than anywhere else in the UK.

Ignoring overlap with VM, that would mean that roughly one-third of the lines (in Scotland) that don't have Superfast speed are EO lines, while two-thirds are on cabinets.
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
That figure for 08/2010 - 14.6% of very remote rural - does seem strange. At that time, BT had only just started their fibre rollout, and had reached 1.5m premises across the whole of the UK (about 5%).

Most superfast coverage at the time came from VM's existing coverage ... would we believe VM as covering a "very remote rural" area?
Posted by jimwillsher 7 months ago
I guess that's the big IF..... :-)

I do get the benefit of up to 90 Mb/s EE dongle (highest speed test so far was 89.7) but no static IP, no route-able IP (all NAT) and a silly monthly price. Oh, and it dies in the rain. So Superfast via my BT line is still my preferred option.
Posted by jtscotland 7 months ago
Fixed 0.5mb with little or no progress in moving a project forward. Since last September the only movement has been clarification that I live in a white post code area. I see little movement for the big challenge of rural broadband and this decision could be another delay in decision-making
Technical solutions do exist (fixed wireless) and people will mobilise (a farmer has volunteered a mast he will shortly be receiving back from the police) but the slow pace of public procurement is so frustrating
It's a utility and, if we want to support rural living then there is no choice but find it.
Posted by WildCottage 7 months ago
Hi New_Londoner
You're right, most of Craignure can get superfast broadband from a cabinet in Craignure. Unfortunately the exchange is physically situated in Lochdon (3 miles away) and just 50yds from my house. No one in Lochdon can get superfast broadband because we're all on EO lines. I know of one property in Craignure (200yds from the cabinet) that is connected to the exchange by EO line.
Posted by themanstan 7 months ago

Cab outside the exchange is par for the course with OR.
Maybe not that big an IF, as this is the proposed mechanism for them to make their copper achieve maximal reach/capability for the upcoming USO.
Posted by zebedee2 7 months ago
I'm probably classed as remote rural although very close to a trunk road (A98) on an EO line running at 3 MBps max.

My copper cable runs in the same duct as a trunk fibre cable - never the twain shall meet?

If the Scottish Government is true to form this announcement will be all talk and no action!
Posted by jimwillsher 7 months ago
We were house-hunting in Devon last year and we homed in on one area. We noticed cabinets outside the exchange so we picked some B&B numbers to put into the checker. Distant properties could get FTTC but predicted speeds were slower than ADSL :). Ironic....

I just checked my OS maps - I'm 2.4 KM from exchange. So perhaps 20 Mb/s on the LR VDSL2 Modelled graph that's scattered across the web.

Sit and wait....seems to be the answer.
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
VDSL2 solutions help a lot, but not everyone. They are cheap solutions for reaching 70%, 80%, 85% (and 90% in England), but the solutions need augmenting to reach more people.

Adding FTTC to EO lines with a cab outside the exchange is the next-cheapest solution to help a few more %, but not all, and has been going on for 2 years now.

Putting new cabinets in for longer lines (EO or D-side) is the next-cheapest solution. This is gaining traction now.

I suspect BT are still resource-limited on people who can do the copper re-arrangement work.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
Okay found the mistake, and have updated figures, the end result is that it actually shows the Scottish project in an even better light with regards to what it has delivered beyond the commercial roll-outs.

Issue was some cabinets by a script mistake got included from the start of the timeline, the sort of thing that happens when you introduce new data into an old bit of script.
Posted by Somerset 7 months ago
Adding up the numbers comes to 86% coverage?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
100% of premises and shows 85.9% coverage at 30 Mbps or faster in Scotland.

So what is the question about 86%
Posted by galacticz00 7 months ago
Unbelievable that Scotland commits to this and England can't. I'm targeting a relocation to Scotland circa 2018!!
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
That's better. Yes, it adds up to 86%.

Interesting to see the coverage rates for all 3 styles of "small town" reaching similar levels, though starting separately. And then seeing the increase in the corresponding "rural" parts surrounding each.
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
It'll start in 2018, not end. Relocate in 2020 instead? Or go for plan b) and relocate next to your cab once it gets a G.Fast pod added?

Given that England's coverage is currently 6% higher than Scotland, I wonder how long it will take Scotland to overtake
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
Or just relocate to a location that has FTTH/FTTB already available or a 300 Mbps Virgin Media property
Posted by jumpmum 7 months ago
Figures look much more realistic now! I am impressed that 33.5% of 'Very Remote Rural' have already got 30Mb+ and over half all rural have access to 30Mb+. Also puts to bed the belief that few Rural premises are being enabled with the present program.
Posted by gah789 7 months ago
There is a complete disconnect between such figures and the experience of anyone living in or dealing with (Very) Remote Rural Areas in Scotland. Why? Some small community schemes but mostly the sheer coarseness of the classification. Enable a cabinet in a village with 50 houses and do nothing for the surrounding area with 100 scattered houses gets you 33% coverage. No-one locally believes the village is remote but the surrounding areas certainly are.
Posted by gah789 7 months ago
The core problem is the very different perceptions of what is meant by rural. Small towns for us are equivalent in size to medium villages further south. An area is only remote rural if the number of sheep or cattle is at least 100 times the number of people. The statistics work with properties per hectare, for us it is properties per sq km - at least an order of magnitude less dense.
Posted by gah789 7 months ago
There are thousands of properties or groups of houses that are reached at a distance of 1000+ metres along a local access road or track. These are merely remote, not even very remote, and none of them get superfast speeds other than by wireless or satellite. To be very remote - well I know plenty of cases where the access road is 5+ km.
Posted by New_Londoner 6 months ago
The problem is that people are using their own personal definitions of "remote" to judge when the data is derived from formal definitions. Best to become familiar with the ONS definitions first.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
Agree - problems occur when people don't realise when common words are used in specific statistical ways.

In Scotland, a "remote" area is one more than an hour's drive from an urban area.

With that definition, the "100 scattered houses" surrounding a "village of 50 houses" are all likely to get the same remoteness classification. An access road of 5km+ won't come into it. Well, not until the road is more like 100km.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Though 100 scattered houses will be across a number of postcodes, and that is probably reflected by the difference between 'fibre enabled' i.e. VDSL2 passed and superfast.

Also several times have dealt with scenarios where someone says 90% for a county is impossible as 25% of their village is not superfast. Always possible to slice and dice data many different ways, but we try to stick to the ways that can be aligned with other datasets.
Posted by New_Londoner 6 months ago
It's too often the case that we all assume our personal experiences, good or bad, are representative of those of the wider population, irrespective of any data to the contrary.

Worse, and more dangerously, many of our politicians seems to assume that their post is representative of both their constituency and the country at large. They cheerfully ignore details like the majority of us being unlikely to write to them every so often just to let them know everything is okay.

Just occasionally it would be good to see evidence based decision making!
Posted by Moorfoot 6 months ago
Tell me, in all this talk of speeds, do the figures represent what the providers claim they're delivering, or what their customers actually get at the end of the pipe? At its best where I am, BT's claimed 2.4mbps delivers 1.8, with regular drops to 0.5 which BT is always unable to explain.
Posted by New_Londoner 6 months ago
A drop like that could be caused by external interference such as a faulty fluorescent tube.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@Moorfoot Is this drops in connection speed or speed test results? If the latter it might just be peak time congestion or local Wi-Fi issues.

The figures for superfast coverage are based on our model of what we believe people will see, which is generally on the lower end of what providers say they will deliver. User experience is shown by our speed test round-up each month.
Posted by brianhe 5 months ago
The obvious first drop in speed is the BRAS profile which on ADSL knocks at least 0.5Mbps of your speed.
Not holding breath, was promised improvements years ago, I queried it as I knew i would be some distance from the likely cabinet placements, I was reassured. Of course nothing as the cabinets are placed close to the exchange in the village centre, and the outlying properties received nothing.
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