Broadband News

Confusion for public as Scotland celebrates 800,000 premises figure

The BDUK roll-outs in Scotland is split into two distinct areas Highlands and Islands (HIE) and the Rest of Scotland and the split is geography based with the HIE area being a larger land mass but with a lot more smaller number of premises.

The last few days has seen the announcement of 800,000 premises being passed and celebrated by the Scottish Government on a path to 95%, but as we found back in February when the previous 700,000 milestone was reached there is confusion about what the 800,000 represents.

Press exposure for this milestone is important as positive coverage will encourage more people to go out and check what is available and maybe discover they can order a better broadband service, and particularly for those in smaller exchanges that have to date only offered an up to 7 Mbps ADSL service (IPStream Max) we would recommend upgrading to VDSL2 even if the speed estimates do not offer a significant improvement - the reasons being that VDSL2 is using a new backhaul network scaled to handle lots of video streaming and the IP Profile and DLM systems are much better on VDSL2 compared to ADSL.

The problems we have seen is that some outlines are headlining with words like superfast and even calling the 95% target a 95% superfast one, back in February we were told that the 95% target was 'anything fibre based' but given we believe Scotland has hit that figure now (see our Oct 7th round-up) and some of the more recent wording from politicans in Scotland it may be they are using a high speed broadband definition which is generally taken to mean access to a 15 Mbps or faster option. To hit a 95% or higher target another 1% of additional coverage at that speed is needed and the projections suggest this is likely by the end December 2017.

We have looked at the progress in terms of premises and it does look like an additional 100,000 have been added since February 2017, but are not publishing the full table of figures because of the complexity around the overlaps from the Virgin Media roll-outs, for example in areas where the Rest of Scotland project has delivered VDSL2 cabinets since May 2016 we saw Virgin Media roll-out to around 50,000 premises. If you look at the roll-out chart for North Ayrshire the cable footprint has gone from 1% to 19.5% since January 2016 which is some 13,000 premises in one local authority are alone. Deciphering which came first and exactly who paid what and whether better value for money was possible by skipping a cabinet that overlapped with some pre-existing Virgin Media footprint would not be a cheap exercise to do since it would require a lot of time to figure out and access to invoice paperwork that is not in the public domain.

A second key part to the celebrations is that Scotland has the fastest pace of roll-out and this looks to be the case especially in the Highlands and Islands but we would have urged some caution in how this has been worded, since it is not uncommon when delivering services (not just broadband) for those who have lagged behind that once they start playing catch-up that the pace of change will look impressive.

You might think we are creating trouble where it does not exist, but just read the following quote from the award winning Holyrood current affairs publication.

More than 800,000 premises in Scotland can now access superfast broadband, the Scottish Government has announced.

The Scottish Government says it is on target to meet its commitment to 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Scotland having access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017, after 34,000 more connections were made in the last six months.

The £428m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband scheme is delivering two projects – one led by the Scottish Government and the other by Highlands and Islands Enterprise – to ensure that areas of Scotland that would not have received high-speed broadband through commercial rollout have the option of better connectivity.

Opening paragraphs from on 800k broadband news

There are so many mistakes, Scotland as a whole is almost at 2.4 million premises with a superfast broadband option, the 800,000 being those where public money has been used and as we've discussed earlier the 800,000 is not 800,000 superfast but a different measurement metric. For those who have reached for the calculator and come up with a £535 intervention cost per premise, do remember that with the subsea fibre cables needed in Scotland and the extra work involved in converting exchange only lines to cabinet based or in some cases full fibre the costs will not be uniform at all.

Once the 95% high speed internet coverage is met things do not end, there is obviously still lots more to do and with Scotland working towards its R100 goal the question will be around how deep will they go with fixed line services and as with other projects across the UK how much full fibre is going to be deployed in the final days of the phase I roll-out and any subsequent work under gainshare arrangements.


My farmer friend continues to get 0.3Mbps on a good day according to the think broadband speed checker. His post code TD11 is among the worst in the country. Openreach give no time scale for connection to FTTP, a grant for satellite is not available, and BT have refused to issue a mobile sim account for him to connect to the 4g mast in his garden. His property is 0.75 mile from the nearest road so no doubt he will be among the very last to get workable broadband. 3 years to go?

  • 961a
  • about 1 year ago

Since BT Consumer has no legal obligation to provide anything beyond dialup 28 Kbps at present, sourcing a mobile SIM is down to the person themselves.

BT customers do get a discount of £5/m on their SIM packages, so maybe jump for one of them to give some data at higher speed option.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

There has been confusion about “superfast” v fibre since day 1. We’re in Aberdeenshire and our line was “upgraded” from an EO line to a fibre connection, with the box being almost 2,000 metres away. The result is no improvement to our broadband from our users’ perspective, indeed our impression is we are slower and less reliable than on the old EO line, with speeds ranging from under 2MB to a shade over 8MB on a very good day. But we have too many of drop-outs and throughput failures and constant failed uploads. But, they can tick the box and say we are connected to fibre!

  • Garioch
  • about 1 year ago

Its been a very badly run project, simply chasing numbers not need. Three years ago when fibre cabinets went live, all within a few hundred metres of the exchange, I enquired what was happening for those too far from the cabinets, I was told my postcode was scheduled for work Autumn 2017. Now the time has arrived after having to get my MSP involved to get an answer from Superfast Scotland is nothing is going to happen, just wait another four years. They do keep suggesting their free installation scheme for satellite, but the monthly cost of a decent amount of data is simply too high.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 year ago

And there is always the "ferrets in a sack" never ending arguments between the various players in the industry.

Why can't the regulator just concentrate on bringing broadband to all of us?

  • 961a
  • about 1 year ago

That Telegraph article is interesting, but if TalkTalk and others are worried about the (fairly nominal) amount that OR would be recovering from wholesale charges (presumably from GEA-FTTC) to cover this, they surely won't be happy if a legally mandated (and potentially more expensive to implement) USO would be slapped on the OR. Those extra costs would still have to be recovered by cross-subsidy, which would surely mean regulated wholesale charges would be a little higher again.

In general, Ofcom can't set arbitrary prices. The are required to do it on a cost basis whatever a USO might say.

  • TheEulerID
  • about 1 year ago

As someone on an EO Exchange not only do I not even get 2 Mbps but there appears to be no plan to upgrade the Exchange.

What a pity the Government and OFGEM can't sort things out

  • lcman
  • about 1 year ago

another example of being economic with the truth.

we are just outside Forres and while the exchange is enabled we are over 4k away and no sign of any proper connection. I am lucky to get .75 Mb and have had to resort to vodafone mobile wifi with very limited data so while the speed is much better than the landline I cant even use i player because of data restrictions.

I have given up trying to get any info as no one seems at all interested. So these announcements just make me sick as politicians just play games.

  • stephenfly
  • about 1 year ago

Many many properties on the Highland WestCcoast can't get fibre due to the exchanges only having one cabinet to supply whatever number of properties are reasonably close to it, those further away are stuffed.

  • 21again
  • about 1 year ago

Last year I started a Community Fibre Broadband scheme with BT (surprisingly helpful) as our village is 5km from a fibre enabled exchange in Aberdeenshire. I raised funding from enough people for a new box close to our Village Hall and school - it was all going ahead until Digital Scotland stopped it earlier this year saying they might fund part of it. Trying to find out what is going on is like the KGB even with help from the local MP. Digital Scotland are clueless and then the council sent out a letter suggesting we all get Satellite. I'm not waiting for R100 & have installed a 4G system.

  • browgars
  • about 1 year ago

Superfast and Better Broadband are all very well, but when ISPs such as BT are charging exorbitant contract termination there is not likely to be rapid take-up of them.

BT what to charge me £104:40 to terminate a 1Mbps contract with them. Their service is abysmal I intermittently, but frequently, get far less and the router continually locks-up or drops out all together, causing streaming and downloads to fail.

I thought BT were partnering our governments in rolling out increased speeds to the country not putting up massive road blocks.

One very unhappy customer.

  • PaulStenton
  • 9 months ago

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