Broadband News

Minister claims Scotland will be years ahead on digital connectivity

The Scottish R100 project has been a lengthy process and a bit more detail has emerged about the fate of Lots 2 and 3 which were awarded to BT. We now have a rough timescale and what to expect technology wise. Lot 1 is still up in the air due to a legal challenge and if that drags on could cause problems for anyone claiming Scotland will be ahead of the curve.

This roll-out means Scotland will have enhanced digital connectivity years ahead of the rest of the UK.

R100 will ensure that Scotland is ahead of the curve, not just in the UK, but internationally.

Through our investment, we will extend full-fibre broadband to much of rural Scotland, going beyond our original commitment, and helping to deliver future-proofed economic, social and environmental benefits for the whole country.

This is one of the most challenging broadband infrastructure builds anywhere in the world, and this, combined with the decision to future-proof our technology, means the work will take time to complete.

We are also setting up a voucher scheme which will launch later this year. This will provide grants to broadband customers, ahead of the delivery of the R100 contracts, to support access to a range of technologies and suppliers.

It is disappointing not to be able to announce details of the contract for the North Lot due to a dispute over the awarding of the contract, but the Scottish Government is doing its utmost to ensure that people in the north of Scotland can access superfast broadband through the R100 programme as soon as possible, including through our voucher scheme.

Minister for Connectivity Paul Wheelhouse updating parliament

So what have learnt about Lots 2 and 3:

  • LOT 2 (Central Scotland). Build is expected to reach 47,000 premises using £83 million of investment out of the 55,000 in the area identified as without superfast broadband access. No exact figures on the breakdown of technology but the vast majority will be delivered via full fibre.
  • LOT 3 (South Scotland). Expecting all but 200 premises to benefit from the roll-out and all to be done using full fibre with an investment of £133 million, so 99% of the 26,000 premises with FTTP.
  • TIMESCALE By the end of 2021 if the build goes ahead and keeps to the initial plans around half should be completed i.e. 23,000 in lot 2 and 12,000 in lot 3. The completion of the two lots that can proceed is expected to be the end of 2023.

The simple view therefore is that the target of 100% superfast coverage across Scotland by the end of 2021 is NOT going to happen, but this being politics there is some spinning possible that by virtue of the voucher those who are not helped will be able to access the vouchers and get access via fixed wireless, 4G, satellite or some other magicial solution. Alas we've been here before with vouchers and while useful they only ever seem to exist as short term sticking plasters.

So what difference will adding 73,000 superfast premises make to the Scottish situation, well based on what we have today it will lift Scotland from 94% superfast coverage to 96.6%, though given the existing roll-out is still adding around 0.1 percentage points each quarter it will be higher. The other big unknown currently is the fate of Lot 1 and the around 99,000 premises that this should help.

In terms of full fibre coverage, Scotland with 7.77% is at the bottom of heap compared to Northern Ireland 35.57%, Wales 11.38% and England 10.95%. We don't know the total that number of FTTP expected from Lots 2 and 3 but if it was all the premises the Scottish total would be 10.37% and thus still behind the other nations in the United Kingdom. Of course with the commercial roll-outs of full fibre underway and accelerating the numbers will be different but as things stand today there is no reason to expect Scotland to get an unusually high proportion of the roll-outs.

So it is not clear to us how Scotland is going to be ahead of the curve, unless the Minister is expecting no new superfast infrastructure to be built in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for several years. Internationally the UK and its constituent parts do fare better on the international stage for availability of 30 Mbps speeds but the comparisons have moved on and while getting the slowest areas onto superfast is important in a couple of years those with notional coverage at 30 Mbps but seeing 25, 26, 27 Mbps in daily usage will be more vocal about wanting upgrade options to full fibre.

Scotland has a slightly different way of categorising rural and urban areas, which we do cover intermitently a useful article that gives a time line for the rising levels of superfast coverage is from 2017. Today will share the full set of superfast, full fibre figures and thus as we roll through 2020 and finally reach 2023 we can refer back to where things were.

Other factors at play in the next few years are the broadband USO, Gigabit target and any extensions from gainshare investment. On the USO for those where there is a plan to deliver something that is better than the USO in the 12 months after you apply you will not be eligible. The bigger one is the race to 100% Gigabit coverage for 2025, which makes the decision in Lot 2 to not use full fibre throughout a bit odd, one has to presume that even with the £1,765 average investment that some are simply not cost effective and need either higher subsidies. The other unknown with the £5 billion Gigabit coverage scheme is how it will operate in reaching the 10% to 20% that are not reached commercially, i.e. lots of mini contracts just like old BDUK process or a new centrally administered single contract, likely to be something in between. On the gainshare investment, since lots 2 and 3 are with BT it is feasible that this may already be factored into what is happening with the R100 contracts, without access to reams and reams of paperwork it is impossible to tell and 99.9% don't care they just want better connectivity built yesterday.

thinkbroadband analysis of broadband coverage across the urban and rural areas of Scotland
In descending order of number of premises - figures 10th January 2020
Area% full and partial fibre based
i.e. VDSL2, G.fast or
FTTP or
Cable
% superfast
faster than 24 Mbps
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast
100 Mbps or faster
FTTP, cable, G.fast
%
Full Fibre All Providers
 
Openreach  FTTP
% Under 2 Mbps download% Below USO
10 Mbps download
1 Mbps upload
We do not count ADSL2+ as USO compliant

Large Urban Area

1,092,454 premises

40% of Scotland

98.96% 98.84% 98.77% 76.19% 10.58%
 5.54%
0% 1.1%

Other Urban Area

758,209 premises

27.7% of Scotland

99.57% 99.23% 99.04% 59.1% 6.42%
0.87%
0% 0.5%

Accessible Rural

376,197 premises

13.8% of Scotland

94.75% 80.86% 79.67% 13.2% 7.92%
 6.71%
4.9% 14.1%

Accessible Small Town

220,124 premises

8% of Scotland

99.38% 98.91% 98.54% 12.87% 6.04%
 1.35%
0% 0.6%

Remote Rural

93,182 premises

3.4% of Scotland

89.42% 70.29% 68.43% 3.72% 3.72%
 3.61%
8.4% 24.4%

Very Remote Rural

91,315 premises

3.3% of Scotland

82.47% 66.06% 63.92% 1.39% 1.39%
 1.30%
7.1% 27.8%

Remote Small Town 

64,826 premises

2.4% of Scotland

99.45% 98.33% 97.72% 0.19% 0.19%
0.19%
0% 0.6%

Very Remote Small Town 

36,822 premises

1.3% of Scotland

99.9% 98.79% 97.9% 0.08% 0.08%
0.08%
0.1% 0.5%

Scotland is working with a 30 Mbps and faster definition of superfast broadband, but we have left our lower definition of over 24 Mbps in the tables as the gap between the two helps to illustrate the impact of distance on the figures e.g. in urban areas where cabinets are a lot closer together the difference between the two figures is very small. 

Comments

Do we know anything further about the dispute for the Northern Lot? Ironically it is that lot that will be bringing the biggest improvements.

  • brusuth
  • 10 months ago

Even in lots 2 & 3, still need to wait to see which premises are covered and which are not.

  • brianhe
  • 10 months ago

@brusuth

Blame Gigaclear for that. In addition to delaying the rollout south of the border, they now want to delay the R100 Northern Lot 1 rollout as well - they've launched a legal challenge against the decision to award Openreach Lot 1 in R100.

  • baby_frogmella
  • 10 months ago

Alas yes, still a sit and wait game for those living in the areas.

Hopefully they'll adopt some of the techniques of announcing areas on social media or maintaining a list of where recently gone live on a website - makes my job easier and also helps public see that things are happening. Annoying if its happening nearby and not where the reader is, but at least can see things happening.

A big unknown is the commercial FTTP roll-outs, these do help a small number get out of the ADSL/ADSL2+ hole.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 10 months ago

"So it is not clear to us how Scotland is going to be ahead of the curve, unless the Minister is expecting no new superfast infrastructure to be built in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for several years."

Talk about pulling your punches ;-)

  • Croft12
  • 10 months ago

Guess the SNP won't car about the mere details with coverage like this Andrew

https://www.thenational.scot/news/18150294.scottish-governments-broadband-pledge-exceeds-superfast/

  • Croft12
  • 10 months ago

It really is quite amazing that the SNP can put a positive spin on further failed pledges. I believe it could have been a manifesto pledge.

So will Fergus Ewing now honour his pledge to quit - see https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/8065-scottish-minister-bets-job-on-reaching-r100-target-by-2021

As for the voucher scheme for satellite/4g ... haven't such schemes proved to hopeless before?

The lack of available information is the most frustrating part of this sorry saga. Here, the local Development Trust enquiries to Mr Wheelhouse have remained unanswered for months!

  • rhum
  • 10 months ago

To be fair the delays have been caused by central UK government changing the rules and the bidders suing one another. These are completely outside Fergus Ewing's control. I have never voted SNP (I view the central SNP tenant as racist) and voted No in 2014. However fair is fair and you can't blame someone for something that's not their fault and for which they had no control over.

  • jabuzzard
  • 10 months ago

Something's not right in the very remote rural line - you've got 24Mbps+ at 66.06%, and 30Mbps+ at 93.92%. I suspect that should be 63.92%.

  • andrum992
  • 10 months ago

@jabuzzard

Some fair points - but as a minister he should know better than to stick his neck out when the pledges being made by the Scottish Government at that time were already being considered unrealistic.

@andrew

Could you be more specific as to the social media/ websites that are so helpful to you please, as I mentioned earlier it's the lack of information that is the most frustrating element of all of this.

It would be even better if Mr Wheelright could actually reply to his post.

  • rhum
  • 10 months ago

Just finding out when (if ever) FTTP is likely to come where I live (Wishaw) would be nice.

Would have thought that upgrading the Motherwell/Wishaw/Hamilton area with FTTP would be reasonably easy, close to Glasgow and pretty dense population...

  • Jumping
  • 10 months ago

@ Jumping Surely no easier than doing FTTP in a fairly remote rural town, if theres already Fibre there for FTTC cabs etc

  • Swac3
  • 10 months ago

Jumping
This programme won't touch Wishaw as it is covered by FTTC already. You will have to wait for a Fibre first type initiative from OR or other operator so unlikely before 2023 ith the R100 completion first.

  • jumpmum
  • 10 months ago

@andrum992 sorry about the 9 instead of what should have been a 6, typo all my fault. At least having both superfast definitions made it clear something was odd. NOTE: Did check source figures rather than assume was one of my typo

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 10 months ago

As for social media thats useful

@superfastworcs
@superfaststaffs
@superfastessex

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 10 months ago

@jabuzzard If no legal case had happened they still would not have made the target. It was hopelessly optimistic. All sorts of bodies have to deal with the gov and changes in rules but have managed a better rollout than the SNP. Their default to everything is its Westminster fault.

  • Croft12
  • 10 months ago

@Croft12 Thanks for the link, WOW that article in the National is some piece of work LOL

  • Swac3
  • 10 months ago

Was the target hopelessly optimistic or just a plain old regular Lie.

  • Swac3
  • 10 months ago

Echoeing the comments here, if areas already have FTTC, there seems no hope that FTTP will replace this anytime soon. And only 7.7% on FTTP reflects that quite well. Being so far away from Westminster is definitely taking it's toll in all aspects of living it seems.

  • Spitfire400
  • 10 months ago

@swac3
In April 16 the SNP Holyrood election manifesto stated:
"We will deliver superfast broadband to 100% of premises across Scotland, to bring our most remote communities closer to the markets they need."
Possibly the electorate in Scotland are more trusting of their politicians. I would think that anyone who has a clue about telecommunications would have thought it impossible. A lie? - well perhaps incredibly temerarious.
NB in case any think I'm simply having a go at the SNP, the Conservative MP and MSP here in SW Scotland have been pathetic in their assistance with rural broadband.

  • rhum
  • 10 months ago

@swac3 Hard to say if politicians lie or just delude themselves into believing things are possible that realistically aren't.

@rhum Not sure how parties not in gov could do much about it other than words.

  • Croft12
  • 10 months ago

@Croft12
David Mundell MP is a member of the existing UK Government. As such he is able to influence UK policy. Furthermore as Secretary of State for Scotland for 4 years he was underwhelming.

Oliver Mundell MSP is elected to represent his constituents and ensure that the SNP Scottish Government are held to account. He does not appear to have much knowledge about/interest in rural broadband issues.

In fact each would 'pass the buck' whenever possible.

  • rhum
  • 10 months ago

Exactly not even "normal" roll out can you get information on when it is coming...parts of Hamilton does have FTTP but still it is rubbish.

Reason why it is easier to do populated area that has FTTP close to it is that the infrastructure is close by and should be less on investment, but then again UK on whole seems to be stuck in the past with a lot of things making everything much harder than it should be...i mean plumbing pipes on the outside of the building.

  • Jumping
  • 10 months ago

@Croft12 it is not just the legal cases, the UK central government changed some rules which basically meant they had to start the tender process again. This was totally outwith the control of the SNP. So the 2021 has slipped two years to 2023, but by all accounts the change of rules and legal cases have caused it to slip that two years. I am supported of the SNP but I don't view the delays as anything they could have done anything about. Finally at least the SNP recognized it as important back in 2016...

  • jabuzzard
  • 10 months ago

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