More than 115,000 households and businesses across the Highlands and Islands now have access to their fastest-ever broadband speed through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project.
And work is to begin over the next six months to add to the growing number of locations where services are live or build is underway.
New areas seeing roll-out for the first time include Symbister in Shetland, Scourie in NW Sutherland, Benbecula on the Outer Hebrides, many parts of Skye, additional areas in Arran, Port Ellen on Islay and Glenlivet in Moray. (Full list of areas below)
To benefit from the faster connection speeds when they are available, residents need to sign up for a fibre service with their chosen provider, as upgrades aren’t automatic.
Customers can find out if services are available on the checker at www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen
Engineers expect the first fibre connections to be available in many of these areas by this summer* as Openreach, BT’s local network business, continues work on the ground.
Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital, said: “It’s great to see the fibre cabinets coming through in more and more locations across the region. We are seeing increasingly smaller communities drawn in and are tackling some challenging geographies to reach people. Most recent places to see coverage include Weisdale in Shetland which now boasts the UK’s most northerly cabs, Helmsdale in Sutherland, and the first locations in Arran and Millport.”
Much of the work planned for upgrades are now on ‘Exchange Only’ (EO) lines, a historic legacy of the copper network which present unique engineering challenges. They run directly from the exchange to homes and business premises, bypassing the usual road-side cabinets which are a vital part of the fibre rollout.
Engineers have worked out an innovative way to integrate these lines into the fibre rollout, rearranging the existing network and laying hundreds of metres of new cables to reroute the lines through extra road-side cabinets, to overcome the hurdle.
Liz Mallinson, BT Scotland’s Fibre Broadband Director, added: “We’re excited to be bringing fibre technology to more places in the Highlands and Islands, especially as it involves overcoming the technical challenge in the shape of EO lines.
“We’re also urging local people to check if they’re among the thousands who can already get high speed services. There’s lots of competition in the broadband market, and people may be pleasantly surprised to discover they could be surfing at much higher speeds at a similar cost to their current service.
“Once you’ve tried superfast broadband, you’ll never look back.”
Due to the current network topography and the economics of deployment, it is likely that not all premises within selected exchange areas will be able to access fibre-based broadband, and within villages drawn into the programme there may be staggered delivery. Further announcements will be made as more areas are able to access the growing fibre infrastructure.
Next areas where work is starting
Argyll and Bute
Aros, Inveraray, Kilmartin, Port Ellen, Strachur, Tayvallich
Arran and Cumbrae
Millport, Pirnmill, Sliddery
Ardvasar, Arisaig, Broadford, Dunvegan, Edinbane, Fort Augustus, Isle Ornsay, Kyle, Poolewe, Raasay, Salen, Scourie, Uig, Portree