Broadband News

Openreach using another way to deploy FTTP in remote Scottish communities

Openreach is working to bring FTTP to two remote Scottish communities on the mainland and as part of this they are exploring using different kit to allow them to bury armoured fibre cable quickly and also different ways of building the network compared to the usual FTTP build out from aggregation nodes.

Two communities are set to benefit via the pilot and these are Altnaharra and Skerray by Bettyhill with around 145 premises benefiting (45 in Altnaharra) and for with some of these people enjoying ADSL so slow its symmetric at 0.25 Mbps in both directions a faster more reliable full fibre service will be a massive change. The pilot is expected to have delivered working services by the Autumn.

Narrow trench machine soft digging in verge
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Ditch Witch in Scotland operated by Alex Moon and Josh Egan

As our core fibre spines penetrate even deeper into rural Scotland, it brings new opportunities to improve broadband speeds for remote communities.

In Altnaharra and Skerray we’re assessing a new concept, building fibre from new nodes off the spines direct to local properties with support from the local communities. This builds on recent partnership and commercial investments in the Highlands and Islands.

We’ll test how we can use the spines to reach very rural communities, and the distances over which we can use fibre effectively. Our learning from these innovative trials will inform our wider fibre strategy and could potentially help us to reach other very remote communities around the UK.

The two pilot communities will see their broadband speeds jump dramatically, as well as improvements to their existing services, so this is a win-win situation.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley
Narrow trench machine soft digging in verge with Openreach CEO Clive Selley
Click image for larger version

Ditch Witch and Clive Selley, Openreach CEO

This pilot is funded by Openreach, but there will be some digging carried out by communities themselves, with some digging following Openreach specifications to cover the distance between their property and the main part of the pilot core. Interestingly the existing copper cables that travel under Skerray beach are regular victims of lightning strikes, and fibre should not suffer from that (i.e. no induction of surges down the pathway, though if metal armour rather than Kevlar is used there may be a risk of physical damage with direct strikes).

Ultrafast FTTP on way to Scottish postcode

Sample postcode from Openreach checker

The pilot is already showing as FTTP build underway for some of the premises and postcodes and while on a pilot like this where the community is involved it is likely everyone will know about the roll-out, for other areas across the UK it is important to keep an eye on the checker progress since upgrades to your broadband service are not automatic and even if your provider sells the FTTP service (which many do not) they appear very lax at pointing out the new much more reliable and faster option has arrived.

For the wider picture across Scotland, playing around with different techniques such as the 'Ditch Witch' may help to speed up roll-outs, thus reducing costs and may mean that as the Digital Scotland and Scottish Government push onwards towards the goal of 100% superfast by 2021 that the proportion of full fibre involved can increase and the amount of 'too expensive' to service properties that might end up relying on an up to 30 Mbps satellite service will decrease.


Hope they try this in rural N. Ireland

  • pipcoo
  • over 2 years ago

This brings a little hope. Can't complain as i'm getting 8mbps just now compared to these guys that were getting 0.25mbps. I'd rather they were seen to first. I just hope this technology becomes widespread, looks simple and effective, where was this 5 years ago! :)

  • woodmass14
  • over 2 years ago

@woodmass14 Agreed. Openreach quoted £28k to connect 16 EO lines in our London street to FTTP, despite being within a few yards of two FTTC cabinets. Understandably the residents baulked at £1,750 each when others get it for nothing and said they'd wait until it became universal. Could be a long wait.

  • davidlove
  • over 2 years ago

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