Media Release: BT unveils new £8million fibre route to link Orkney and Shetland to Scottish mainland

BT is investing £8 million in a new fibre transmission link which runs from Inverness through the north of Scotland to Orkney and Shetland.

The new link will deliver faster broadband over copper lines and a new business Ethernet service to Kirkwall and Lerwick, with similar services being provided along the route at Dingwall, Tain and Thurso. Alness and Invergordon will also benefit from an increase in broadband speeds.

The link is planned to come into service early next year, when it will carry all the broadband traffic between the Northern Isles and the mainland. The existing microwave radio links that serve Orkney and Shetland will be retained for back-up.

Almost 1,000km of fibre cable – including 400km subsea – will be used in the link, making it one of the longest optical transmissions systems in the UK.

The project has involved bespoke design work to cater for the distances involved and to enhance the remote maintenance and service of the equipment.

These, along with other enhancements, have required rigorous testing in BT’s Suffolk laboratories and in the network prior to the systems being brought into service.

Specialist equipment had to be installed at 20 different sites along the route of the new link.

Brendan Dick, director, BT Scotland, unveiled the ambitious project at a public meeting in Shetland today. He said: “This significant investment demonstrates BT’s ongoing commitment to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“In fact, no communications company is doing more than BT to roll-out next generation broadband services across the Highlands and Islands. And, 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.

“Faster broadband is touching the Iives of everyone – from small businesses and homeworkers, to internet shoppers, students, families and online gaming enthusiasts – and transforming the way we do things, for the better. BT is committed to making faster technologies available to as many homes and businesses as possible.”

The seven towns will be among the latest communities in the country to benefit from upgrades as part of the roll-out of BT’s next generation broadband service delivered over copper lines.

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

The faster broadband is already available to more than 1.5 million Scottish premises and, by next Spring, around 73 per cent of homes and businesses in Scotland will be served by an exchange which has been upgraded to deliver these higher speeds. The new service is available on an open, wholesale basis to all companies providing broadband.*

On top of this, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Dingwall, Tain and Thurso are to be upgraded to BT’s latest generation Ethernet network which will offer large businesses, SMEs and public sector organisations in these areas a massive step forward in communications capability at the same time as significantly reducing costs.

Ethernet makes it possible for businesses to opt for a choice of guaranteed broadband speeds over a dedicated line and across multiple sites.

Customers can choose Ethernet speeds between 1 Mbps and 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps), depending on their needs. At the top rate of 10Gbps the system is capable of transmitting an astonishing 10 billion bits of information per second.

Advances in technology mean the service is available at a fraction of the cost of a comparable one provided previously by a similar, traditional private network.

Businesses and organisations using voice, data, video and other bandwidth-hungry applications across more than one site are the most likely users. The highly-flexible system can be easily expanded as a business or organisation grows.

BT offers Ethernet on an open, wholesale basis to all communications companies providing business services. It is also being used by many mobile phone operators to address the explosive growth in demand for mobile data services across the UK.

Meanwhile, Mr Dick also revealed that BT has set up a unique fault reporting service for Orkney and Shetland with a focus on tapping into communities to get help with identifying incidents without relying on homes and businesses reporting into their communications providers.

The service, which will involve establishing a network of local ‘spotters’, will run until the fibre link is commissioned.

For further information about this news release please contact Mitch Reid or Anna Steven in the BT Scotland press office on 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be read at

Note to Editors         

*Once an exchange area has been upgraded for next generation broadband, some service providers automatically upgrade their customers to the enhanced broadband service. People should contact their chosen service provider for more information about the products and services they offer

About BT

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

BT was the official communications services partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and helped to deliver the most connected Games ever. BT is supporting the British Paralympic Association all the way to the Rio Games in 2016.

In the year ended 31 March 2012, BT Group’s revenue was £18,897m with profit before taxation of £2,445m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group.  BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

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Contact: Mitch Reid
Phone: 0800 085 0660