BT to build £8m fibre optic link to the Highlands, Orkney and Shetland Islands

Broadband speed

Telco BT is to invest 8 million in bringing superfast broadband to the Highlands of Scotland, and building a fibre optic lick to Orkney and the Shetland Islands.

The company said several areas will benefit from the plan to run a fibre optic cable from Inverness up to the two islands in the far north of the UK.

The 1,000km connection includes a 400 km link undersea to the islands. A microwave link, presently used to connect it to the mainland, will be used as a backup.

The link will connect the towns of Dingwall, Tain, Thurso, Alness and Invergordon in the Highlands before heading up to Kirkwall in Orkney and Lerwick in Shetland.

Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, announced the project at a public meeting in Shetland.

"This significant investment demonstrates BT's ongoing commitment to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland," said Dick.

"By investing 8 million in this fibre spine for Orkney, Shetland and the north of Scotland, BT is laying the building blocks for any future deployment of fibre broadband," he said.

The BT investment will result in download speeds of up to 20 megabits per second (Mbps) more than double the fastest speed previously available from BT.

There will also be a fault reporting system set up on the islands, which will help residents to "spot" incidents from areas around the isles.

The firm will be offering access to the link on a wholesale basis to all communications companies providing business services.

Meanwhile, BT looks set to clinch a contract to provide faster broadband in Norfolk after it was selected as the preferred bidder for a 39.3m contract to run fibre optic broadband in rural areas of the county.

But the agreement between the telco and Norfolk County Council is subject to approval by the European Commission, which is currently looking into claims that there is not enough competition in the UK broadband market.

To date, BT has won all the contracts it has bid for as part of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme.

"This represents a staggering acceleration in broadband provision in Norfolk," said Ian Mackie, deputy leader at Norfolk County Council, in a statement.

"The significance of this deal and this project for the future success of our county cannot be underestimated."

BT is also set to become the preferred bidder to build a superfast broadband network after rivals Fujitsu pulled out of the bidding process.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.