A number of Scotland’s most remote new build home developments, specifically some of those taking place on Orkney, Shetland, Islay and Isle of Lewis, have become some of the first to benefit from a new roll-out of Openreach’s (BT) 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP technology.
Openreach can install FTTP free of charge to all new housing developments of 30 or more homes, but they’ve also reduced the cost for smaller housing sites of between 2 and 29 properties by more than three quarters (here). Naturally several property developers in more remote areas have started to make use of this (e.g. Orkney Builders Limited, E&H Building Contractors Ltd, Macleod Construction Ltd and Calmax Construction).
The new deployments are commercial but build on the core fibre optic infrastructure and £27m of new subsea cables that were laid several years ago as part of the Digital Scotland (DSSB) project (here). As a result some 32 new houses on Orkney, as well as 30 houses and 16 flats on Shetland (rising to 80 homes in the future), 20 houses on Islay and 50 premises on the Isle of Lewis can now or will soon be connected via “full fibre“.
In the grander scheme of things this may seem like a small deployment (Openreach plan to reach 3 million premises by the end of 2020 and possibly 10 million by c.2025), but that overlooks the big challenges involved with bringing FTTP to such areas. The Shetland project alone involved the installation of more than 1,300 metres of cable along the main A970 between Lerwick and Sullom Voe to the site’s entrance.
Andrew Hepburn, Openreach’s Fibre Delivery Director for Scotland, said:
“We’ve been honing our skills on full-fibre rollout in places like Altnaharra in Sutherland. New, more efficient techniques and equipment we tried out there are now helping us to deliver full-fibre networks to other rural places.
We’ve cracked some challenges to bring FTTP to these island sites, like shipping out specialist equipment to Shetland to blow the delicate, glass fibres through underground piping. When you buy a new home, you expect the best of everything – and residents will find their new homes are among the best-connected in Scotland.
FTTP provides an unbeatable service for residential broadband,with lots of capacity for data-hungry services and applications, and it’s also great for businesses, giving them all the bandwidth they need to max their online operations and future growth. We’re on a mission to bring decent broadband to everyone in Scotland, and we’ve recently dropped our wholesale prices to help stimulate the fibre broadband market.”
Overall engineers have installed around 5,900 metres of new core fibre cabling to reach the new sites, which in theory could in the future also help to spread the ultrafast broadband connectivity to other nearby areas. This marks a welcome change from the older and slower Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) or even ADSL services that have tended to dominate such areas.