Shetland Secures £1.91m for Full Fibre Broadband Network Build

shetland lerwick harbour

Good news. The remote Shetland Islands Council has secured a public investment of £1.91m from the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) fund, which will be used to extend their existing Gigabit fibre network to include public sector sites (schools, council buildings etc.) on the North Isles of Yell and Unst.

The project is also said to be “aligned” with the Scottish Government’s £600m Reaching 100% (R100) programme, which aspires to make “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) ISP networks available to “every single premise in Scotland” by the end of 2021 or March 2022 as a financial year (here and here).

The local authority similarly hopes that the provision of core infrastructure to public premises will “make connections to homes and businesses in the area easier, through the creation of ‘hubs’ which can be utilised to extend connectivity in the future.” Apparently this infrastructure will be available to bidders in the Scottish Government’s R100 procurement (we’re still awaiting the outcome of that).

The Council’s North Isles Fibre project could also provide vital infrastructure for the proposed Aligned Interventions programme. The new Council owned network could provide fibre connection points for other third party networks which may need backhaul connections. The Scottish Government is considering options under various scenarios, such as using different technologies to extend access, which could involve laying further fibre optic cables or utilising mobile, wireless or satellite technologies beyond the current procurement.

Alastair Cooper, Chair of the Council’s Development Committee, said:

“This is good news for the North Isles, who have historically suffered from poor broadband and connectivity, while other parts of Shetland have seen upgrades. This is a positive improvement for public services in Yell and Unst, which lays a foundation of connectivity that can be extended to domestic and business premises in the future. We hope that the R100 initiative will help deliver domestic and business connectivity in the near future too.”

Margot James, UK Minister for Digital, said:

“We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy. This £1.91 million boost for gigabit speeds in the North Isles will build on the great work already being done by Shetland Islands Council and I congratulate them on their successful bid.”

The network route is currently being finalised, but it will extend the Council’s existing network from Graven to Mossbank and Toft and onwards to Yell and Unst. In the “near future” it’s also possible that the project may allow for a “technical solution” to improve the Council’s broadband links to Fetlar.

A procurement exercise is due to start soon and if all goes well then the build phase could start as soon as this summer, with the project reaching completion in late 2019 or early 2020. Previously it’s also been suggested that this could help to link up the new Shetland Space Centre (SSC) launch site on Unst (here).

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