Broadband News

25,000 more premises to see superfast broadband across the Highlands

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland has visited the highest fibre enabled village Tomintoul in the Highlands and Islands to celebrate the announcement of a 25,000 premises extension to the existing Digital Scotland work in the region in conjunction with BT. Yes we know we should have said highest village in the region hosting a VDSL2 cabinet at a height 1,132 feet above sea level, but VDSL2 or FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) does not always sit so nicely in press releases it seems.

This is excellent news for the Highlands – delivering access to superfast broadband to more than 250 Highlands and Islands communities for the first time.

The £146 milion project has passed its original targets and is providing opportunities for businesses and communities across the region to transform the way they work. The Tomintoul Discovery Centre is just one of the businesses now benefitting from superfast broadband and is an example of how they’ve used it to enhance their visitors’ experience.

We will build on this success and our Reaching 100% programme, backed by £600 million, will deliver superfast broadband access to every home and business in Scotland by the end of 2021 – the only part of the UK to do so.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister

The bit about being the first in the UK we presume has some qualifications around it, since we expect Kingston Upon Hull to actually be 100% Fibre to the Premises by that date, and with the CityFibre roll-outs and other expansion by Virgin Media, Openreach etc other council sized areas are likely to reach the goal.

So what difference is an extra 25,000 premises of superfast coverage going to make in the Highlands and Islands, well it should add around 10% to the current 78.9% superfast coverage level and seven of these areas are to be Kichenzie, Kilninver, Glendale, Torridon, Waternich, Machrie and Great Bernara.

The press release asserts that the BDUK project in the HIE region has passed 124,000 premises with access to a superfast broadband option and with the extension should reach 150,000 by next year, given 2019 is just a few months away we presume that it is actually some time during 2019 as the target date.

As with the other BDUK projects we have been tracking the HIE area and believe that 138,000 premises have gained access to superfast broadband, there are a further 27,000 premises connected to VDSL2 cabinets where speeds are expected to be below 30 Mbps and this will include those too far to get anything at all e.g. in Tomintoul there are premises connected to cabinet 1 that are over 2 km away so ADSL is expected to connect at higher speeds.

thinkbroadband analysis of Superfast, USC, USO and Full Fibre Broadband Coverage in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland
In descending order of superfast coverage - figures 3rd August 2018
Area% fibre based
VDSL2 or
% superfast
24 Mbps or faster
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast
100 Mbps or faster

 Openreach FTTP Full Fibre

% Under 2 Mbps download

% Below USO

10 Mbps download

1 Mbps upload

Highlands and Islands region of Scotland
242,379 premises
90.8% 80.2% 78.9% 0.44%


4.2% 15.6%
Exchanges and Cabinets in HIE that have seen Digital Scotland Delivery
166,387 premises
99.3% 85.0% 83.4% 0.3%


5.4% 9.2%

One presumes that the 25,000 premises extension will reduce the size of the Lot 1 contract intervention area, which when the R100 lots was announced was some 99,288 premises but this is not an exact match we believe for the HIE area we currently track. With £384 million of funding in Lot 1 removing 25,000 premises would boost the funding to £5,169 from the original £3,867 per premises.

For those who are shouting at this article complaining they are too far from their cabinet to get superfast speeds, apparently in addition to the new areas there is set to be some infill work, which will mean new VDSL2 cabinets closer to clusters of outlying premises and with luck some might even see full fibre (FTTP) especially where it can boost the speeds for business premises.

Looking at this from a long term viewpoint, with the 100% full fibre by 2033 areas such as the Highlands and Islands are going to remain challenging, the existing work that has rolled out 1,200km of fibre and 900 VDSL2 cabinets with 20 subsea routes between the islands should be instrumental in allowing the next stage of upgrading to full fibre to take place, but a lot hinges on the R100 contracts e.g. we may see a new entrant who uses the R100 contract as a springboard to a much larger roll-out.


The highlands and islands aren’t the only part of scotland on 80%, my local area is, but no sign of anything immanent. The H&I get all the emphasis whilst the rural SW is ignored. Just having to wait to see if R100 actually delivers something after Superfast Scotland’s broken promises.

  • brianhe
  • 6 months ago

I'm pretty sure "Part of the UK" is intended to means "nation of the UK", i.e. Scotland will be the first out of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • andrum992
  • 6 months ago

Here in the hills above Loch Ness, we are now on Line of Sight, a signal that bounces back and fore across the loch (1-1.5 miles wide) for the full 23 miles. That means we have now gone from 1.8-2 mbps to between 25 and 42. The difference is great, obviously. There are others more rural than us, ie even further from the nearest exchange, that are using old television aerial frequencies which 'go round/through' mountains and trees. It really has changed things up here as upload speeds are no longer laughable... Good luck elsewhere.

  • fionamacd
  • 6 months ago

Well I am in the rural SW in a cluster of 7 so will have to wait... and wait. Mind you, we are not as slow as fionamacd was. Congrats on getting a speed-up there!

  • DanielCoffey
  • 6 months ago

Post a comment

Login Register