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Is Scotland on track to reach 95% fibre based coverage by the end of 2017?
Tuesday 07 February 2017 11:53:26 by Andrew Ferguson

Governments saying they are on track and announcing project milestones is easy and some degree of scepticism is healthy and we fully understand the anger felt by those in any of the UK project areas who still don't know if and when they will be seeing any broadband improvements and those who are earmarked for an improvement but nothing seems to be happening.

The Scottish Government held a cabinet meeting and public Q&A session with 250 members of the public on Monday 6th February at Pitlochry and one of the statements made was that the combined might of the (Highlands and Islands) HIE and Rest of Scotland BDUK projects had made fibre based broadband (VDSL2) to some 700,000 premises.

By combining the two projects using our data and excluding premises where Virgin Media is available we arrive at a lower figure of 630,000, if you include the cable figures the footprint is 818,000 premises passed by VDSL2/FTTP or cable broadband, which once range limitations of VDSL2 are applied gives you premises passed as 698,000 to 712,000. NOTE: With the on-going Virgin Media expansion there are areas where cabinets will have being delivered in the early stages of the project but may now also have a new cable broadband option (e.g cabinet 13 on the Irvine exchange which went live in 2015) which explains some of the gap between our 630,000 figure and the official 700,000.

Scotland has the target of making fibre based broadband available to 95% of the country by the end of 2017, and this of course will also depend on the commercial roll-outs and thus encompass numerous operators such as Virgin Media and Hyperoptic and not just Openreach, hence our inclusion in the metrics we track. The 95% target looks like it will be easily met in the next 12 months, but this will include people who cannot get superfast speeds and thus is not identical to the Westminster goal of 95% superfast coverage for the UK as a whole.

thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast, USC, USO and Fibre Broadband Coverage across Scottish Premises
figures 6th February 2017
(change since 31st January 2016)
Area % fibre based % superfast
24 Mbps or faster
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast
100 Mbps or faster
% Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under proposed 10 Mbps USO
Scotland 92.6% (+5.7) 88.7% (+5.8) 88% (+5.8) 40.6% (+1.4) 0.08% (+0.08) 1.3% 6.1%
Rest Of Scotland
Commercial + BDUK
93.6% (+3.4) 90.6% (+3.9) 90% (+3.9) 44.6% (+1.2) 0.09% (+0.9) 1.5% 4.8%
Rest Of Scotland
Superfast Scotland / BDUK Only
97% 89.2% 87.9% 27.8% 0% 3.9% 6.7%
Highlands and Islands (HIE)
Commercial + BDUK
82.9% (+10.7) 69.5% (+10.3) 67.3% (+10.3) 0.07% (+0.07) 0.07% (+0.07) 6.4% 23.5%
Highlands and Islands (HIE)
Superfast Scotland / BDUK only
97.8% 77.9% 75% 0% 0% 9.3% 15.3%

Change for the Superfast Scotland / BDUK areas is only available back to June 2016 when we started tracking individual projects in addition to administrative areas.

The table above shows Scotland, the two main sub divisions and then what we believe has been delivered by the two projects covering Scotland. One observation we can make is that there is signs of more being on the way to parts of Scotland from Openreach and while many rural exchanges with all exchange only lines are getting one or more new VDSL2 cabinet there as yet has not been the same scale of cabinet infill work as seen in other parts of the UK.

When you do the maths and see that with some 2.7 million premises covering homes and business are in Scotland there are currently still some 320,000 premises without a superfast option of 30 Mbps or faster, you can see why it is so easy to find people with bad broadband stories.

IMPORTANT If you are in Scotland and don't have a VDSL2 option yet and are stuck on ADSL, the good news is that BT Wholesale has said it will be upgrading all the remaining ADSL exchanges to WBC ADSL2+. This means better backhaul capacity so will behave better at peak times, a less onerous IP Profile system (i.e. its fully dynamic rather than IPStream drop quick rise slowly pattern) and upload speeds for many will double, plus the small matter of increased download speeds, which might only make a 0.1 Mbps difference for a 6km line but for those at the 4km and better cable distance it will give a decent speed boost. Not all providers are pro-active at migrating people across, so it is always worth checking if ADSL2+ is now available yourself.

CORRECTION 08/03/2017 16:35—We updated the article at following the Scottish Government advising us that the 700,000 figure was a fibre-based figure (i.e. technology), rather than 700,000 superfast premises (i.e. 24/30Mbps or faster).

We have also changed the text to highlight that the original article suggested it looked like 700,000 premises were superfast via the project appears to be due to us having included Virgin Media cable premises. In some parts of Scotland some cabinets have been delivered that do overlap with Virgin Media, but the invoicing systems mean BT should not be claiming for those premises, and thus official reports of premises passed should exclude these and thus only fair that we do too.

The 95% target has also been corrected as we mistakenly read it to mean 95% superfast coverage when it is actually 95% fibre based coverage (i.e. first column in our tables).


Posted by connormill about 1 month ago
Do we know when WBC ADSL2+ will be rolled out to exchanges that are currently ADSL only?

Specifically looking at New Deer Exchange
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
Don't have a schedule, will ask.
Posted by andyjstew about 1 month ago
No information on ADSL2+ but looks like FTTP/FTTC is already enabled on that exchange according to samknows and also by looking at the broadband street stats using the think broadband maps.

Appreciate you may be on a particular cabinet that isn't enabled in the area or on a long line though.
Posted by connormill about 1 month ago
It's for an EO Line that has 8128/448 sync on ADSL1 so would be nice to even get ADSL2+ on that line.

It's a business that looked into Satellite and LTE but they use nearly 500GB/Month so they are out of the equasion

Line stats show Downstream Attenuation of 27dB and SNR Margin of 10dB
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
Cabinets 1 and 2 cover the old EO lines that are closest to the exchange with VDSL2, so have they double checked that FTTC is not actually available?
Posted by craski about 1 month ago
There are some areas within Scotland that have lower contractual targets than 95%? i.e. Is Aberdeenshire target is only 89%.
Posted by connormill about 1 month ago
BT Wholesale checker doesn't display a cab number or FTTC status, only has an ADSL range of 2.5-65mbps
Posted by connormill about 1 month ago
All addresses on the postcode display the same result too
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
@Craski The 95% is an overall figure, rather than each local authority area in Scotland has to hit it, thus some areas will do better and balance out the other areas.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
How far from AB53 6TA are you, as that is where one cabinet is located.
Posted by connormill about 1 month ago
2.1KM as the crow flies, 2.6km by road
Posted by themanstan about 1 month ago
Does your algorithm for USO 10Mbps coverage account for ADSL1 only on an exchange or does it assume ADSL2?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
Yes it does account for ADSL versus ADSL2+

There is even an allowance for extra cable distance when EO ends up via a cabinet.

Also some areas use an aluminium distance factor, so if people can show via stats and speed tests the effect for an area we will add them to that list.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 month ago
The obvious question... is the perennial one.
How sure are we that the target is 95% superfast speed, rather than 95% NGA infrastructure?
Posted by themanstan about 1 month ago
Excellent, then we should expect a 1-2% change just from this change to UK figures.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 month ago
And... About the two rows in the table where the "fibre-based" column reads 97% and 97.8%:

If both of those rows represent "BDUK only" areas, why doesn't that read 100% in both cases?

Surely everything that is "BDUK only" is putting in "fibre-based" infrastructure.
Posted by connormill about 1 month ago
BDUK could be satellite, fixed wireless or LTE also, can't it?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
It would read 100% if all the cabinets we believe are part of the project were live.

e.g. Can sometimes see people have shifted from EO to a cabinet in rural bit of Scotland but VDSL2 has not gone live yet.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 month ago
So more of an indication of build-in-progress.

Where those exist, at least in Scotland, then they are basic-broadband replacements: 2Mbps. They aren't an integral part of the superfast rollout.

Swindon has an LTE rollout, and wireless has been piloted, as proper parts of the SF rollout.
Posted by gah789 about 1 month ago
Can I point out that there are a small number of exchanges in Scotland that are still Exchange Activate, not even ADSL. It would be interesting to know if the BTW statement about upgrading to ADSL2+ applies to these. Nice for us but hard to justify given the small numbers of connections and long lines that characterise EA exchanges.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
@gah789 which exchange? Seem to recall something about the EA being upgraded to ADSLMax a long time ago.
Posted by gah789 about 1 month ago
ESSTO. There are 20-30 very small EA exchanges - most in the Highlands & Islands - which were not upgraded to ADSL Max in the SG program in 2008-09. Download speeds are limited to 0.5 Mbps. All of the exchanges are EO as well. The plan is supposedly to install FTTP in most of these exchanges but the costs are nonsensical - an average of > £5,000 per property because settlements are so dispersed
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
ESSTO offers no ADSL at all.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 month ago
BT looks resource constrained so do we fudge 95% by expecting too much from VDSL, or subsidising say 47 cabinets in Croftfoot, Glasgow, or give the engineers more time and preserve the funds and improve the quality of the service? I have counted 327 (from 527 nationally) exchanges with no VDSL in Scotland as yet.
95% looks a bit shallow if your funding infill in Glasgow. More time I think and mind the cash. Progress is good but resource constrained.
Posted by gah789 about 1 month ago
@Andrew. I think this depends on what is meant by "offering ADSL". Since I am currently connected to the internet via an ADSL modem on an ESSTO phone line, the exchange does provide a variant of EA/ADSL service - but it involves non-standard DSLAMs and is heavily constrained. That was my original point. Is BTW going to abandon the exchange, connect us to another exchange or upgrade it to 21CN/ADSL2+? Quite possibly they haven't thought about it carefully.
Posted by jtscotland about 1 month ago
Thx for raising the point about exchange activate - living with 0.5mb fixed download has pushed us to satellite, which is obviously a short-term expensive option
Post code IV6 7QQ
Been pushing Community Broadband Scotland for a solution but they're currently 're-planning' due to the Scottish governments 2021 target for all premises to get super fast broadband
Posted by jaffajedi about 1 month ago
what is "superfast"? I have been upgraded to fibre but wouldnt call 13Mbps superfast (Angus)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 month ago
24 Mbps or faster is basic definition (under column headings in table)
Posted by rhum about 1 month ago
Apologies in advance if I'm thought to be 'hijacking' this post but as EA exchanges have been discussed I have a question. Is there any reason why these exchanges can't have previously used, but now redundant, ADSLmax equipment installed? I don't think anyone here seriously expects a 'superfast' service but 0.5Mb is ridiculous.

Our exchange is Marrburn WSMAB - what makes it even more irking is that apparently part of the county's optic backbone runs within 50 metres of the exchange! (BTW will neither confirm or deny this)
Posted by rhum about 1 month ago
Apologies for the typo above "county's optic backbone" should read:

"country's [ ie National } optic backbone"

I doubt this will create a flood of replies... but I live in hope!
Posted by jimwillsher about 1 month ago
Butterstone (ESBUT) is another EA, just a few miles away from my own exchange Essendy (ESESS). Both exchanges have no cabinets, all the lines are EO. At least my own exchange has ADSL but nothing better.

I doubt we'll see ADSL2+ at these two any time soon.
Posted by rhum about 1 month ago
... I've just been chatting to an Openworld engineer who was doing some line work from our (Marrburn) exchange. He was mystified as to why the exchange wasn't being used to output to it's maximum potential (he mentioned 6Mb). This was totally unprompted from me - I've always thought that EA could never output more than 0.5 Mb.
He obviously has a lot of expertise in these matters, perhaps someone could enlighten me as to what is stopping BTW at least slightly improving the broadband from such exchanges?
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