Broadband News

Is Scotland at the 90% superfast broadband coverage level?

The broadband landscape is a constantly changing one in the UK and numerous targets exist and the Scottish Goverment has now announced hitting the 90% superfast broadband milestone and well done to ISPreview for spotting the news, we would have been quicker but wanted to ensure the analysis was as up to date as possible.

Over 750,000 Scottish homes and businesses can now connect to fibre broadband thanks to the £428 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme.

It means that more than 90% of Scotland now has access to fibre broadband thanks to the programme and commercial deployment, which is part of our commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband access across Scotland by 2021.

While the news is great for Scotland, our own tracking suggests that while 90.17% of premises should be able to order an over 24 Mbps service, using the more strict 30 Mbps and faster definition this drops to 89.4%. Our figures tend to err on the pessimistic side, i.e. we assume a lot of cross talk and distance drop off so calling the 90% is not something we would contest as its clear they are very close. The distance to see speeds drop from 30 Mbps to below 24 Mbps in our model is an additional 200 metres. The 0.6% gap is 15,000 premises and some of this may vanish as cabinets may already be live but we don't know about them - you can check the status of a postcode using our checker at 

Where even we find things confusing in press releases is the terminology used, which often appear to mix definitions of fibre broadband and superfast broadband and can cause widespread confusion, so to avoid doubt our understanding of the terms is:

  • Fibre Broadband - access to VDSL2, FTTP or cable services at any speed
  • High Speed or Fast Fibre Broadband - as above but with a minimum connection speed of 15 Mbps
  • Superfast Broadband - for many English projects this is defined as fibre and over 24 Mbps, for Wales, Scotland and others with EU funding a stricter 30 Mbps faster figure applies.
thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast, USC, USO and Fibre Broadband Coverage across Scottish Premises
figures 14th June 2017
Area% fibre based% superfast
24 Mbps or faster
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast
100 Mbps or faster
% Virgin Media Cable% Openreach FTTP% Under 2 Mbps USC% Under proposed 10 Mbps USO
Scotland 94.1% 90.2% 89.4% 42.6% 42.4% 0.11% 1.3% 5.5%
2,574,993 Premises 2,423,068 2,322,643 2,302,043 1,096,947 1,091,797 2,832 33,474 141,624
Rest Of Scotland
Commercial + BDUK
94.8% 91.9% 91.3% 46.9% 46.7% 0.12% 1.5% 4.8%
2,337,374 Premises 2,215,830 2,148,046 2,134,022 1,096,228 1,091,553 2,804 35,060 112,193
Rest Of Scotland
Superfast Scotland / BDUK Only
97.5% 90.2% 88.9% 29.6% 29.3% 0% 2.5% 5.6%
685,420 Premises 668,284 618,248 609,338 202,884 200,828 0 17,135 38,383
Highlands and Islands (HIE)
Commercial + BDUK
82.9% 69.5% 67.3% 0.07% 0% 0.07% 6.4% 23.5%
226,279 Premises 187,585 157,263 152,285 158 0 158 14,481 53,175
Highlands and Islands (HIE)
Superfast Scotland / BDUK only
98.4% 78.8% 75.8% 0.1% 0% 0.11% 6.4% 13.2%
147,105 Premises 144,753 115,952 111,543 158 0 158 9,404 19,397

The Virgin Media cable roll-outs in Scotland have been making a difference, with coverage two years ago of 39% compared to the 42.4% today, adding some 87,000 premises and in some cases these new cable areas overlap with cabinets delivered via the BDUK programme, and in some cases cabinets delivered via the BDUK programme overlapped with existing cable areas. In the later overlap scenario the 'bill' raised by BT should have taken into account the overlap so that the project is not paying for people to get VDSL2 when they already have the option of cable.

Looking at the overall Scottish picture if the last few months of cabinet delivery are maintained then 90% using the 30 Mbps definition may just be 6 to 8 weeks away, and by the end of 2017 it looks likely that under 5% of Scotland will be left with a sub 15 Mbps option.

Looking to the future, there is plenty of full fibre (FTTP) marked for inner city areas (but often overlaps with cable, so thought to be commercial) and some FTTP in rural areas that as work on VDSL2 tapers off we will probably see more of, exactly how much is a bit of an unknown since we've not tracked it like we did for Wales which has talked about a figure of 85,000 premises of full fibre previously. The 2021 goal of 100% superfast broadband coverage is achievable the real issue is what will happen for the most difficult premises i.e. will fixed line be dropped and a variety of fixed wireless which can deliver great speeds when setup correctly or the eternal fallback of satellite broadband.

While waiting for some sets of our figures to update a second press release detailing where the Highlands and Islands Enterprise area stands arrived at 11:30am

The Highlands and Islands project is one of the most challenging broadband infrastructure roll-outs in Europe.

When it started only 4% of the region’s premises could access next generation broadband. Every day roll-out reaches increasingly remote communities and smaller and smaller groups of homes, including locations like the island of Scalpay in the Outer Hebrides, and villages like Lonmore and Roskhill in Skye.

The Scottish Government is committed to delivering 100% superfast broadband access across Scotland by 2021 and plans are currently being developed to ensure that this is the case. During the summer months our existing programme will continue to advance across the country, bringing high speed broadband to new rural communities.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing

The scale of the work left to do is visible in the under 2 Mbps and under 10 Mbps results, so we will keep on tracking as the years roll by and look forward to the superfast coverage figures increasing and decent broadband becoming so easy to obtain that both official tracking, our tracking and complaints from the public about poor broadband tail off that we will just be covering things like the differences between the speeds providers actually give people at peak time, and why provider A can run 3 UHD streams at once, but provider D can only manage 1.

The scale of what has been delivered in Scotland becomes more apparent when you look at Rest of Scotland project has delivered some 2,900 VDSL2 cabinets, and Highlands and Islands a further 779 that we know are live as of today, and before anyone does the maths to arrive at a figure of £116,000 per cabinet, it is worth remembering that there was a large amount of money spent getting fibre to the various islands which means the cabinets on the end of those fibres will have a much higher cost compared to others, additionally we do not know how much of the £428m has not actually being spent yet and this is very important in terms of what is possible as Scotland decides on the technology to use as they push towards 100%.


Academic if you can only get 1 Mbps

  • 961a
  • about 1 year ago

Does nothing for you when your left in the slow lane, just years of empty promises.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 year ago

It is an impressive achievement but as the coverage figures increase, those yet to receive any help or see any improvement get increasingly frustrated. Some will understand the reasons for that, many wont. I still think Digital Scotland could have done a far better job at communicating intended plans rather than leave so many expecting something positive to come from them #ExploringSolutions

  • craski
  • about 1 year ago

you are having a laugh. I can only usually get !.5 Mbps and at the present time only 0.2 Mbps. I am in Rafford just 5 miles from Forres which is enabled. All they have to do is run fibre to Rafford ....just 5 miles and then distribute form a new cabinet in the centre of the village. Job done . But NO. and nobody can give any dates when this can be fixed. What will the rest of the world have by 2021.when we will be lucky to get 20 Mbps. I used to get faster down loads 15 years ago on dial up. Will someone take notice and do something about the village of Rafford

  • stephenfly
  • about 1 year ago

It's so easy to start at the easy end....

  • 961a
  • about 1 year ago

Its cheap to start at the easy end.

In a project which targets "value for money" and the most premises per £m, that becomes a prime consideration.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago

Stephenfly's comment is typical for those of us in rural Moray.

I am on an EO Exchange 5 miles from Keith that was supposed to be updated at least 2 years ago but now it looks as if it will never be done. Result unreliable and slow non fibre Broadband.

It would help if they put some of the money being spent on superfast broadband in urban areas to getting rural areas a reliable service with at least 10Mbps

  • lcman
  • about 1 year ago

Such a focus on stats ignores the point. What useable broadband achieves is equal opportunity for people to learn, trade and inform themselves in order to thrive and prosper where they live. Given the industry's current tech capability, then not provide useful speeds to all UK households is socially divisive. Changing this is government's job. We need the will to learn from our neighbour countries to achieve this., e.g. Norway, awarding mobile network contracts that specify you cover a whole region, but FIRST, deliver 100% cover for the areas' population. Sharpen up, regulators!

  • Webbas
  • about 1 year ago

"Sharpen up, regulators"

In your dreams. Many believe them to be hopeless pencilnecks in cushy jobs totally uninterested in rocking the boat

"It would help if they put some of the money being spent on superfast broadband... into getting rural areas a reliable service with at leaset 10Mbps"

That is exactly what needs doing. Any chance? Again, in your dreams

  • 961a
  • about 1 year ago

Unfortunately, the regulator is more interested in the cheapness of broadband, and in instigating this through promoting competition.

Neither is beneficial to those premises that don't already have access to superfast speeds.

Both government and regulator have a USO in mind to cover the last remnants, to some extent, but it continues to be seen as a "mopping up" exercise, rather than leading from the front.

One problem is that there is no licence that the government can use to control fixed-line access, and force coverage. It is, essentially, incompatible with competition as a solution.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago

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