Broadband News

£3 million of funding to bring full fibre to hundreds in Highlands and Islands

Following on from the re-investment of £2.23 million into the Highlands and Islands region of the Digital Scotland Superfast broadband programme, there is today the news that a further £3 million is to be re-invested.

The best part is that the £3 million is going to be used to deliver full fibre (FTTP) to hundreds more homes and has been triggered by take-up rates across the region and BT releasing under an accelerated plan funding it had previously received. The BDUK contracts generally contain clauses so that as the take-up edges closer to the point where a low risk commercial roll-out would have been possible that increasing amounts of the gap funding get returned.

With our partners we have invested over £400 million in the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, taking fibre broadband to areas where the market would not otherwise go. Connectivity in the Highlands and Islands has been transformed by the Digital Scotland programme.

The region as a whole has seen a huge increase in the availability of faster fibre-based services, with thinkbroadband reporting an increase from 18.6% fibre broadband coverage in January 2014 to over 92% today. Access to fast and reliable broadband is also key in boosting our business and public sectors, helping to underpin economic growth and drive productivity.

Grimsay and Great Bernera in the Outer Hebrides recently became our first fully ultrafast capable islands. We’re now set to see similar coverage in other areas that have been challenging to reach, including Waternish and Glendale in Skye. I’m delighted that as a result of great take-up of services in the region even more people across the area will benefit from the full fibre network.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse

The fibre figures are referring to the combined FTTP and VDSL2 coverage figures and for VDSL2 this includes those so far from their cabinet that VDSL2 might struggle to provide 1 Mbps. The better tracker for the success is the superfast figures (30 Mbps and faster) which since January 2014 has climbed from 16.4% to 80.3% and this means the area is in the bottom ten for superfast coverage (if HIE is treated as its own local authority area, the Orkney Islands is the 2nd worst area at 65.2% only kept off the bottom by the City of London). So a lot has changed and without the BDUK project the figures would be a lot lower, but still plenty of work to do since 50,000 are probably without a superfast option. The FTTP figure may be a marginally higher as we've not done a close inspection for more FTTP in the Highlands and Islands for a while, so if you have FTTP access and are missing on our checker or maps do contact us. Our tracker for the exchanges that comprise the Highlands and Islands area is at and the speed test results reveal that while FTTC/VDSL is managing an average (mean) download speed of 33 Mbps (7 Mbps up), this is slower than those with FTTP which manages 72.1 Mbps down (21.9 Mbps up). The difference between the VDSL2 and FTTP speeds being a mixture of the distance problems due to VDSL2 and that some will be buying the over 80 Mbps options on the full fibre platform.

The future for the majority of those waiting for superfast in this large area depends on the R100 project.

The £3 million of funding for hundreds of FTTP premises could be £30,000 per property if the 100 hardest to reach properties are delivered or £3,333 per property if 900 properties benefit.


The Waternish and Glendale exchanges have only been a challenge to reach as a direct result of the failure of CBS (Community Broadband Scotland) to support local initiatives - quite the contrary effect, as it happened, with the North Skye Broadband programme.

There was, in 2009/10, a substantial fibre trunk laid down the road to Glendale, but this skirted the area!

The gainshares on these exchanges mentioned above were already announced as part of the gainshare programme in August 2018 - five other exchanges affected are presumably soon to be announced (again)?

  • p6resthome
  • about 1 year ago

Another misrepresentation from Paul wheelhouse, starts honestly with "a huge increase in the availability of faster fibre-based services" then heads for the rear end of the horse by continuing with "18.6% fibre broadband coverage in January 2014 to over 92% today."

According to the TBB figures Fibre coverage is 1.21%.

  • Swac3
  • about 1 year ago

Think its another example of politicians either not understanding what they asked for / what they get, or trying to mislead; making out that hybrid fibre, with the too far from the cabinet, sound like fibre to the premises.

  • brianhe
  • 12 months ago

Thanks for the mention.

What is particularly galling is that our de minimis funding of €200,000 (about £185,000) for a proof-of-concept demonstrator for 50 properties, including five businesses, for FTTP in Uiginish was pulled without notice due to the launch of the tender for R100, just as planning for it (including site visits by some required specialised civil contractors) was completed in January 2018.

A year later, a taxpayer-funded 4G mast was built there as infill for the Emergency Communications Network (which is as far away as ever, whilst millions are paid to Macquarrie for Airwave...).

£30,000 for hard-to-reach properties???? What we could have done with that... and the profits for Openreach and the commercial providers re-invested B4RN-style... :(

  • NorthSkye
  • 12 months ago

Will this cover Iona and the Ross of Mull - both were left out in the dark after the collapse of Gigaplus Argyll with "state aid" preventing the infrastructure investment being bought for a community funded project to complete the work. The situation would be less serious were the decades old 2G mobile service to be upgraded and/or reliable. Much of the time it is voice and text only, if at all. It is as though the Scottish Government wishes to banish the Christian troublemakers of the Iona Community (and those visiting them) from the on-line world.

  • PhilipVirgo
  • 12 months ago

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