BT embarks on Scottish Highlands broadband rollout

Fiber optic cable under yellow-colored light

BT is to head up a 146 million high-speed broadband deployment project covering the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Its aim is to provide fibre broadband to 84 per cent of homes and businesses across the Highlands and Islands by the end of 2016.

The project has been billed by BT as the most challenging rural broadband deployment it has undertaken to date, as it will require 400km of subsea cables and more than 19 sea crossings to make possible.

BT has agreed to stump up 19.4 million in financial support for the project, whereas the rest of the funding (126 million) will come from the public sector, which includes the Scottish Government broadband fund that incorporates investments from BDUK.

BT is expected to deploy fibre to the cabinet technology, which could provide broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps, as well as fibre to the premises to help make good on its rollout targets.

A further 2.5 million innovation fund has been set aside by BT and the Scottish Government's Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) initiative to invest in new and emerging technologies that could allow broadband coverage in the region to be extended over time.

Alex Paterson, chief executive of HIE, said the availability of high-speed fibre broadband will help bolster the region's overall prosperity.

"It offers opportunities for new ways of working, innovation, enhanced public services, access to international markets and provides the infrastructure needed by business sectors like energy, life sciences, tourism and business services," said Paterson.

Bill Murphy, BT Group's managing director of Next Generation Broadband, said this is a "once in a generation project" that will boost the competitiveness of the local economy.

"There are incredible obstacles to overcome, not least building a fibre network across some of the most rugged terrain in the UK. And we have huge distances to cover as we lay our cables over the hills and glens and under the sea," said Murphy.

"BT's network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis creating a competitive market where people aren't stuck with one broadband provider and can choose the package and price that suits them," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.