One of the key and challenging industry dynamics of UK gigabit broadband roll-outs has been the worry that networks are being rolled out primarily in large metropolitan areas to the detriment of smaller locations, yet as far as Openreach is concerned, Scotland is defying convention, and as the UK’s leading broadband provider celebrates offering full-fibre broadband access to more than a million homes and businesses in the country, it is the smaller locations that are leading the charge.
Openreach has invested more than £300m in Scotland’s new digital network so far, and looking at the 20 locations with the best ultrafast broadband coverage across its Scottish network, Openreach revealed the small village of Lundin Links in Fife had the highest coverage in the country, with more than nine out of 10 properties able to upgrade to ultrafast broadband.
Tranent, on the other side of the Forth, was a fraction behind, and the West Lothian village of Fauldhouse was third. Ardrossan on the North Ayrshire coast, Aviemore in Highland and Findhorn in Moray all make the top 20. In Glasgow, the build has now passed 125,000 properties, while in Aberdeen engineers have reused the city’s old cable TV network from the 1980s to speed up the roll-out.
The BT-owned broadband firm confirmed that work was continuing on the ground in places like Annan, Fraserburgh, Kirkcaldy and Greenock, as well as in Edinburgh, Glasgow and dozens of other cities, towns and villages. Yet in all, just 360,000 households and businesses out of a possible million have upgraded to the faster, ultra-high speed infrastructure.
“Scots use roughly 100 million gigabytes of data on our network each week – equivalent to every single person in the country watching a full HD movie every day – and data consumption is rising every single year,” commented Katie Milligan, chair of the Openreach Scotland Board.
“That’s why our investment in the new fibre network is so important. Using tiny glass threads thinner than human hairs, it will meet data demands decades into the future. This digital upgrade is a massive deal for Scotland. Transformative connectivity helps make communities sustainable – people can stay local and take full advantage of online opportunities. It’s brilliant to reach one million homes and businesses, and a huge thank you must go to our engineers and build partners who’ve helped make it happen. But we’re not stopping there.”
Openreach revealed that it was also working with the Scottish and UK governments, through the Reaching 100% (R100) programme and voucher schemes, to take fibre networks to Scotland’s most rural areas and hard-to-reach properties. It noted that infrastructure upgrades were currently ongoing from the shores of Loch Leven to island communities like Lismore and Jura, with R100 build due to start in places like Pitcaple in Aberdeenshire, Hillside in Angus, Ballachulish and Cromarty in Highland, and Birsay in Orkney soon.
Commenting on the achieving the milestone, Scottish government innovation minister Richard Lochhead said: “This is an important milestone in the drive to ensure more homes and businesses across Scotland benefit from full-fibre broadband, improving vital connectivity. We are working with Openreach to roll out future-proofed digital infrastructure to our rural towns and villages. Reaching 100% build, alongside Openreach’s commercial network, will underpin economic growth and enhance communities across Scotland for decades to come.”
The UK government’s minister for data and digital infrastructure, John Whittingdale, added: “Thousands of rural homes, businesses and public buildings across Scotland now have access to first-class broadband fit for the future. Over three-quarters of premises across the UK can now access these faster speeds, and with more collaboration with network builders like Openreach at a local and national level, we will see even more rural towns and villages staking their claim to this next-generation connectivity.”
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