Broadband News

Full fibre live for Grimsay and Great Bernera

The Digital Scotland project recently announced some further coverage via the gainshare dividend but these two new areas of full fibre have appeared too quickly to be part of that and thus are likely some of the final parts of the original over £400 million Digital Scotland project, specifically the Highlands and Islands components.

The two new areas are Grimsay and Great Bernara and Rory Cellan-Jones has visited one of the communities in the Outer Hebrides who are rightly excited to leave behind satellite broadband and now have access to full fibre.

Along with other small bits of FTTP across Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) there is now 450 premises of FTTP in the local authority area so still a lowly 2.7%. Ranking the Scottish local authorities by percentage of full fibre this puts the Western Isles down at 15 out of 32 authorities with the bottom position held by Orkney Islands at 0.2%, top place goes to  City of Edinburgh at 17.8% with Stirling close behind at 17.7%.

The benefits to the residents and those running businesses are massive and that is why gap funding has worked in the past to deliver solutions to areas where the economics of delivering broadband mean commercial operators don't usually want to go there. 

Across Great Britain as a whole the rural segment is still doing slightly better than urban for full fibre availability at 9% versus 8.2% but with the ongoing commercial full fibre roll-outs the urban figure is set to over take rural areas soon. At the end of 2018 the rural figure was 7.3% and urban 4.7%, which gives you some idea of the speed at which the commercial urban roll-outs are catching up. The reason that rural areas are doing so well is a mixture of roll-outs by B4RN, TrueSpeed, Gigaclear and others but the bulk is from Openreach in the guise of the BDUK contracts and Superfast Cornwall roll-out. UK overall FTTP figure is 8.82% as of 28th August 2019, Great Britain is lower at 8.37%, the 24.69% of FTTP in Northern Ireland helps to pull up the UK figure.

A quick peek at where we are on the 100% full fibre target there is a slight improvement with build rates suggesting completition in 2042, 17 years after the Governments ambition of 2025 and the old 50% ambition is still holding at around 2030, i.e. 5 years late.

If the ambition for 100% full fibre coverage by 2025 is to be taken seriously we will need 11,909 premises being passed every day, it was only 11,816 premises a day needed on 6th August. The reason for the rise is simple, the clock is counting down and we are not finding FTTP at anything like the pace needed, so companies such as Openreach and CityFibre can talk about accelerating their roll-outs but the evidence in terms of open for order premises does not show any big changes just yet compared to earlier in 2019. If anything the pace seems to have actually levelled off. Of course it is possible that the tracking I do is missing a few hundred thousand premises and a quick point in the right direction will result in me adding the mystery missing thousands if they are out there.

The Openreach press release has now landed and it talks of Na h-Eileanan an Iar reaching almost 80% superfast coverage (over 24 Mbps definition) but with the updates last night when we added the remaining bits of these two areas this has pushed things from 78.1% to 80.6%. Once the press release is on the Openreach website we will add a link to the full release.

When we started planning the Digital Scotland rollout, Western Isles was hands down the most difficult place to build. It has the lowest population density in the UK and many communities are comprised of remote and scattered households.

This project is a game-changer for the people of the Western Isles, with a lasting legacy for the future. In a place like Grimsay, technology is truly life-changing – opening up markets and innovation for businesses and connecting islanders to each other, the world and vital services.

There’s more to do, but if we can bring full fibre broadband to a scattered community like Grimsay then it can be done anywhere.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s partnership director for Scotland

One of key aspects was the work in 2014 laying 20 subsea fibre routes covering some 80km linking up the islands to the mainland and for the FTTP roll-out to connect the properties full fibre engineering staff have been lodging locally.


"There’s more to do, but if we can bring full fibre broadband to a scattered community like Grimsay then it can be done anywhere."
Quite so. So why has Openreach failed to deliver on any of the gainshare exchanges on the Mainland West Coast? A question that maybe only Robert can answer here.....

  • p6resthome
  • about 1 year ago

It's great news for Those communities for sure. As Robert states they can do it anywhere, I have my £4000 cheque ready to go, So crack on.

  • Swac3
  • about 1 year ago

The imperative for FTTP to be rolled out to the Outer Hebrides was no doubt assisted by the fact that the wireless scheme there was being subsidised by over £300k per annum since management of the "Connected Communities" project was taken over by HIE and contracted to a private sector consultancy... I wonder how that degree of subsidy was explained away officially?

  • NorthSkye
  • about 1 year ago

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