Broadband News

£600m of funding to deliver Scotlands R100 superfast broadband target

The days of gap funding were looking to be drawing to a close with Westminster favouring voucher schemes for its full fibre push, but Scotland has stuck with a gap funding model to deliver its R100 project which it is describing as the first universal superfast broadband programme that has been launched.

£600 million of funding which has been announced as part of the Scottish Government's 2018-19 draft budget has effectively pushed the R100 onto the procurement track and hopefully contracts will be signed late in 2018. The £600m is actually four years of £150m running until March 2022, and this tells us that the deadline for universal nature of R100 is 31st December 2021, which may differ to what some think when they see the words 'by 2021', but then this is a universal trick of programmes.

This is the biggest public investment ever made in a UK broadband project. It is a truly transformative moment for our broadband infrastructure and a statement of our intent to make Scotland a world-class digital nation.

Fast and reliable internet connection is vital for the economic and social wellbeing of all communities. This ambitious investment – which is more than three times what the UK Government is putting towards their own fibre broadband rollout - will revitalise the prospects of rural areas right across Scotland.

Building on the success of the Digital Scotland programme, we will deliver a future-proofed, national fibre network that will place rural Scotland among the best connected places anywhere in Europe.

I am confident that the scale of our investment, and of our ambition, will attract interest from a wide range of telecoms suppliers across the UK and Europe.

Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing

There has been some banter back and forth between Holyrood and Westminster of late, so it is part of our piggy in the middle role to point that the UK Government fibre broadband roll-out figure we believe is being talked about if the £200m LFFN but that has a different goal which is full fibre even if it means overlapping with existing superfast partial fibre networks.

For those not aware of the importance of the choice of wording, the reaching of 95% fibre broadband coverage by the end of the year for Scotland in reality means access to a 15 Mbps or faster broadband connection and as the existing Scottish project is running at the 30 Mbps and faster definition then 95% at the superfast milestone is going to be later, the official word is that 95% superfast is expected in March 2018 and we think they may hit by 31st March in terms of what providers tell them has been delivered with our verification once we have spotted the live infrastructure 3 to 4 weeks later.

Importantly in Scotland the 95% mark is not a point where tools will be put down and nothing happen, but there is more lined up for the rest of 2018 under the existing BT contract and so by the end of 2018 there will be a good idea of how much is left for the R100 project. Scotland is lagging in terms of full fibre roll-out but that is starting to change and this follows the usual BDUK project pattern that once the main bulk of VDSL2 has been delivered BT/Openreach resources shift to the more labour intensive FTTP that is planned.

Until the procurement is finished and planning done it will be anyones guess as to how much of the R100 roll-out will be fibre based and more importantly full fibre based and the background notes do have a caveat that people need to bear in mind "Although the initial R100 procurement will focus on delivering superfast access to premises, an equally important objective is that it delivers new accessible fibre in parts of Scotland that currently lacks this infrastructure". So while the goal is more fibre based solutions we can expect a technology mixture with fixed wireless and maybe still some satellite connectivity.

We looked at the differences in what has been delivered so far in rural and urban areas of Scotland back in November but that looked at just the change in superfast coverage of a number of years, today using the same dataset we can share the full spread of technology and speed information. Normally we would try and ensure the data published was less than 24 hours old, but the work to keep as up to date on tracking the 95% progress means we've not had the time to re-run this analysis so apologies for using coverage that is two weeks old but the impact is not massive and we will revisit this dataset with a more up to date analysis in early 2018 and throughout 2018.

thinkbroadband analysis of Rural and Urban Broadband Coverage in Scotland
figures from 27th November 2017

Area% fibre based
VDSL2 or
FTTP or
Cable
15 Mbps or faster% superfast
24 Mbps or faster
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast
100 Mbps or faster
%
Full Fibre
and
Openreach FTTP
% Under 2 Mbps download
Large Urban Area 98.4% 99.4% 98.3% 98.2%

68.9%

1.11%

0.1%

0%
1,039,251 Premises 1,023,060 1,033,387 1,021,449 1,020,402

715,837

11,506

1,078

47
Other Urban Area 99.1% 99.3% 98.7% 98.5%

50.7%

0.1%

0.1%

0%
735,822 Premises 728,857 730,662 726,315 724,823

372,991

745

745

57
Accessible Rural 89.2% 78.2% 73.4% 72.1%

5%

0.34%

0.34%

5.7%
336,203 Premises 299,799 262,925 246,849 242,351

16,917

1,136

1,136

19,006
Accesssible Small Town 97.4% 99.1% 96.7% 96.3%

5.8%

0.19%

0.19%

0%
214,634 Premises 209,021 212,607 207,642 206,776

12,388

413

413

44
Remote Rural 81.3% 66.8% 61.9% 60.6%

0.3%

0.33%

0.33%

8.5%
87,938 Premises 71,536 58,775 54,466 53,271

288

288

288

7,463
Very Remote Rural 74.4% 61.6% 56.2% 54.4%

0.2%

0.24%

0.24%

7.5%
83,782 Premises 62,357 52,645 47,111 45,563

201

201

201

6,265
Remote Small Town 97.2% 99.4% 96.7% 96.2%

0% 

0% 0%
63,442 Premises 61,697 63,086 61,333 61,013

0

0

0

0
Very Remote Small Town 98.4% 98.5% 96.9% 95.8%

0%

0.01%

0.01%

0.1%
35,971 Premises 35,404 35,438 34,841 34,448

4

4

4 34

The table highlights the variations across the different geographies of Scotland with the general rule being if you live in a town then connectivity is likely to reasonable already, but there are still pockets in those areas that need resolving. As people will notice the 15 Mbps and faster column is sometimes higher than the fibre based column and this is because if you live close enough to the telephone exchange and have access to ADSL2+ then speeds in the 15 Mbps and faster region are possible.

In terms of what £600m can deliver, if Scotland reaches the 95% superfast marker then there would be 131,000 premises left to be brought up to a 30 Mbps and faster standard, so an overly simplistic sharing would mean a budget of £4,580 per premise and as the £600m is from the Scottish Budget we can expect additional funding from local authorities and the commercial partner too. Clearly though Scotland does not have a uniform premise density and while delivering Exchange Only upgrades for the remaining parts of the central belt will be relatively cheap i.e. in the usual £250-400 per premise range getting those in the very remote rural areas to superfast speeds may prove very expensive e.g. even if you reduce costs and used fixed wireless you might be looking at just 20 to 30 premises per mast (not per sector but total mast). The reason for not trying to do the envelope calculation by the different rural areas is that we can see some urban EO lines pencilled in for full fibre so need to see how much of that is delivered and there are even some smaller exchanges marked down for a mixture of VDSL2 and FTTP to still deliver. The budget does seem to support the idea of a high proportion of full fibre in the R100 project, so fingers crossed.

Comments

@thinkbroadband Fingers crossed, indeed.

  • @StatgeekUK
  • comment via twitter
  • 7 months ago

@thinkbroadband Some more political footy (watch to the end).

https://t.co/dUFOj9e1PX

  • @StatgeekUK
  • comment via twitter
  • 7 months ago

Also sounds like 100% or when the money runs out, so no guarantee of any upgrade even after waiting a further three years

  • brianhe
  • 7 months ago

Not holding my breath for fibre where I live (rural SW Scotland). They would need to run several km of new cabling to reach a handful of properties.Just can't see it happening any time soon (or even lifetime?)! Quite happy to be proved wrong though.

  • MrBeeline
  • 7 months ago

for remote rural, we need to see more fixed wireless or other solutions that are not fttp/fttc as some of us are in the 20/30 house communities.
Don't know why BT/Openreach haven't piloted these schemes as opposed to pushing their 'joint' community/BT initiatives which are just another opportunity to get more funding
0.4mb fixed in EO exchnages (what a great Scottish invention!) has pushed 'those that can' to satellite broadband which as we know isn't a long-term solution

  • jtscotland
  • 7 months ago

I live in Scotland and get superfast now. I don't mind paying extra taxes to improve the situation; I will pay more under the new tax bands. however there is a huge caveat on that. I object in the strongest possible terms to spending so much as one penny on fixed wireless. Fixed wireless is a dead end that will require more spending down the road to replace all the infrastructure with fibre when even higher speeds are needed. *ONLY* fibre is future proof and *ONLY* fibre should be considered.

  • jabuzzard
  • 7 months ago

A very interesting set of statistics. However I'd like to know if anyone can possibly let me know what criteria is used to differentiate between accessible, remote and very remote rural?
The MSP for this area of SW Scotland is trying to get answers from Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity (Scottish Parliament), as to how some, seemingly, absurd decisions have been reached when deciding where in rural Scotland should benefit from the current rollout of fibre broadband.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • rhum
  • 7 months ago

Post a comment

Login Register