Isles of Scilly tap into seabed fibre cables to get superfast broadband

Superfast Cornwall initiative resorts to novel method to bring fibre broadband to offshore islands

A plan to bring fibre broadband to the Isles of Scilly for the first time by pressing a disused subsea fibre optic cable into service is nearing completion.

The £3.7m project, which began in 2013, is taking advantage of existing infrastructure to help the £132m Superfast Cornwall initiative meet its target of bringing fibre broadband to 95% of homes and businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of the year.

With support from the European Regional Development Fund, BT and Cornwall Council, a 939km fibre cable connecting Porthcurno in Cornwall with Santander in Spain is currently being diverted to the islands by the cable ship Resolute, which has spliced into the cable at two points, 100km and 15km from Land’s End.

The cable has been lying defunct since 2006 after being taken out of service, but will now be repurposed to replace the Isles of Scilly’s current network infrastructure, which relies on a radio link with the mainland.

The project will this week mark a major milestone with the pulling ashore of the main cable at Porthcressa Beach on the main island St Mary’s.

The network is ultimately planned to reach all five islands in the group, which collectively are home to around 2,200 people. BT said it expected to be in a position to offer superfast services by the end of the year.

Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for Cornwall Development Company, the economic development company of Cornwall Council, said: “The people of the Isles of Scilly, who have long been known for their spirit of innovation, are determined to make the most of this exciting technology.

“Superfast broadband will provide a major boost for local businesses and offer the kind of online opportunities, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Businesses on Scilly might be located in one of the most remote – and beautiful – parts of the UK, but they will be right at the centre of the superfast broadband revolution in some of the best-connected islands in the world.”

BT’s Jeremy Steventon-Barnes, Superfast Cornwall operations director, said that the fact the project had been able to use existing infrastructure made a great deal of sense both in terms of costs and environmental impact.

Amanda Martin, chair of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, added: "Superfast broadband will create exciting opportunities for new and existing businesses. Its installation will also help our islands to become more economically viable and provide benefits for future generations.”

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