Media Release: Scotland hits one million fibre broadband milestone

Deputy First Minister hails roll-out of high quality digital connectivity as BT director visits Borders company which made 29 million metres of cable duct for use in BT’s £2.5bn UK fibre deployment last year

MORE than a million homes and businesses in Scotland can now connect to high-speed fibre broadband, BT announced today.

The engineering milestone was passed as the Scottish Borders town of Hawick became the latest community to benefit from BT’s £2.5 billion commercial roll-out.

The 1m total includes more than 330,000 premises in Glasgow and the West; 190,000 in Edinburgh and the Lothians; 120,000 in the South of Scotland; 100,000 in Aberdeen and the North East and 93,000 in Tayside and Fife.

Openreach engineers have laid more than 1,850KM of fibre cable – enough to stretch four times between the most northern fibre street cabinet in Fraserburgh and the most southern in Stranraer. More than 3,500 new cabinets have been built.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, marked the milestone with a visit to Hawick-based company Emtelle, which manufactures cable duct – the plastic piping which encases underground fibre cables.

Last year alone, Emtelle produced more than 29 million metres of duct for use in BT’s roll-out of fibre broadband across the UK. The company employs 180 people at its two manufacturing plants in the Borders.

Mr Dick said: “Today marks a high point in Scotland’s development as one of Europe’s leading nations for high-speed communications. Scotland’s fibre infrastructure is growing rapidly, with another 400,000 premises to be passed before our commercial programme is complete.

“But with one of the most ambitious fibre partnerships in Europe under way to extend this high-speed technology into the places that the market alone won’t reach, the biggest challenge is yet to come.

“Fibre investment in Scotland is not just about kilometres of cable in the ground but about our economic and social capabilities as a country. We’ve recruited around 150 new engineers in recent months as our roll-out gains momentum and we’re proud to be at the heart of Scotland, delivering the digital fabric of the nation.”

He added: “In addition to the direct benefits of fibre for Scottish businesses, the deployment is good news for our supply chain, with Emtelle being a great example of a local company that’s thriving though its support of this enormous undertaking.”

Hosting the visit, Emtelle UK chair, George Brown, commented: “Emtelle is delighted to help BT celebrate this major milestone in the roll-out of its high speed broadband network.

“Our relationship we have developed with BT over 30 years has provided a very stable platform that has allowed Emtelle to invest long term to drive down costs for the benefit of the business and supporting the BT fibre optic roll out.

“This stable platform has also allowed Emtelle to develop business in other areas, including a thriving export business, which in turn has helped create more jobs.”

In addition to its commercial deployment, BT is investing a further £126 million in fibre broadband partnerships with the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Broadband Delivery UK), European Regional Development Fund and local authorities.

Alongside commercial upgrades, these ambitious projects will see 85 per cent of Scottish premises passed by fibre broadband by the end of 2015 and around 95 per cent by the end of 2017.

Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Today’s milestone is fantastic news for households and businesses across Scotland who are now seeing the benefits of high quality digital connectivity.

“Through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Project, the Scottish Government and partner agencies are providing fibre broadband infrastructure to harder to reach areas.

“Combined with the current commercial roll-out plans, this will give around 95 per cent of premises in Scotland access to fibre broadband by the end of 2017 making it one of the most ambitious broadband infrastructure projects ever to have been undertaken.

“The project is an important step towards ensuring that Scotland has world-class digital connectivity by 2020. Our investment, and that of our partners in the project, will extend access to superfast broadband across Scotland. This will be a key factor in ensuring Scotland’s long-term economic prosperity.”

Further information about the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project can be found at www.digitalscotland.org

BT’s fibre footprint currently passes more than 18 million UK homes and businesses. It’s due to pass two-thirds of UK premises by the end of Spring 2014, at least 18 months ahead of the original timetable. 1

Openreach, BT’s local network business, is primarily deploying fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, where the fibre runs from the exchange to a local roadside cabinet. In addition to download speeds of up to 80Mbps, FTTC also delivers upload speeds of up to 20Mbps2 — and could deliver even faster speeds in the future.

Openreach has also started to make fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology, where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business, commercially available on demand3 in certain areas where fibre broadband has been deployed, and plans to expand access in due course. FTTP-on-demand offers the top current download speed of 330Mbps2.

Unlike other companies, Openreach offers fibre broadband access to all service providers on an open, wholesale basis, underpinning a competitive market. For further information on Openreach’s fibre broadband programme, visit www.superfast-openreach.co.uk

Notes to editors

1 BT’s deployment plans are subject to an acceptable environment for investment.

2 These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

3 Openreach will levy an installation charge for FTTP on demand. It will be up to service providers to decide whether they pass that on to businesses or consumers wishing to use the product.

Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not initially be able to access fibre-based broadband. Openreach is considering alternative solutions for these locations.

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Contact: BT Scotland press office
Phone: 0800 085 0660
Email: anna.steven@bt.com
Website: http://www.btplc.com/news