Scotland publishes Infrastructure Action Plan
The Scottish Government has in the past taken some criticism over the delays to the publication of its Digital Infrastructure Plan, but the plan has now been published, and outlines four programmes that have the eventual aim of delivering world-class digital infrastructure by 2020.
- Achieving a step change by 2015: The aim is to provider faster broadband to areas by 2015 where the commercial sector has decided to not roll-out its faster services. The sort of speeds they are looking at is 40 Mbps to 80 Mbps for between 85% to 90% of premises, with the best possible speeds for those where this target is not possible.
- Achieving world-class by 2020: A longer term plan to continue the work improving broadband infrastructure to be amongst the best countries in the world. As a guide Sweden who are currently considered world-class are aiming at 40% with access to 100 Mbps by 2015 (UK will exceed this once the Virgin Media 120 Mbps roll-out completes), and 90% of homes and businesses to have access to a minimum of 100 Mbps by 2020.
- Demonstrating and delivering innovate and local solutions: Where possible local projects will be encouraged and the trialling of new technologies to help meet the targets.
- Increasing take-up and stimulating demand: The aim to ensure all those who want to participate in the e-economy are able to, and this will also help with the procurement strategy which as an aim of a return on investment to the public sector as well as the private sector.
Currently the sums of money excluding any private investment stack up as £68.8m from the BDUK, £79.5m from the Scottish Budget and £25.5m from the EU. Additional funding may be available in 2013 and onwards from the EU, and also Scotland is to lobby the BDUK and UK Government for extra funds from the central purse.
The project has a fairly tight deadline to actually have all the work done by 2015, and the timeline is such that a procurement strategy will be produced by March 2012, procurement starting in September and the contract awarded in the first half of 2013. Existing projects such as the Highlands and Islands Broadband Project, the South of Scotland Alliance and Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF) will all be worked with to ensure the common national goals are met.
In terms of what sort of broadband people can expect the procurrement process is set to be technology neutral, utilising a mix of solutions to deliver a 40 Mbps to 80 Mbps to the 85% to 90% of properties. Interestingly there appears to be a caveat to these speeds "We recognise that a wide range of factors affect actual speeds at individual premises, and the 40 to 80 Mbps target is intended to signal the extent of the step change required, rather than being a precise measure.". Our interpretation of this is very non-technology neutral since it appears to support deployment of a FTTC solution, data from BT suggests that some 55% will manage 100 Mbps or faster (profile 17a plus vectoring), 25% getting 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps and around 20% receiving 10 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
The progress towards the 2020 goal will require more deployment of FTTP particularly in areas where FTTC is likely to not offer the best speeds, and with the BT Group pretty much being the only major provider in the running for the contract, hopefully it will use FTTP at an as early stage as possible.