Start date announced for £384m subsea project to deliver superfast broadband to remote areas

A £384 million project to lay subsea cables to supply superfast broadband to 15 of Scotland’s most remote communities is to begin this Spring.

The work forms part of the Scottish Government’s £600 million reaching 100% programme, which aims to extend the availability of appropriate broadband infrastructure to deliver superfast broadband to every premises in Scotland.

BT has been contracted to deliver the reaching 100% programme with Openreach will leading the infrastructure build. The Scottish Government said that survey vessels aim to begin detailed groundwork in May, with cable laying commencing in Spring 2022.

The £384 million round of work will bring improved connectivity to Colonsay, Iona and Linsmore in Argyll and Bute; Eigg in the Highlands; Eday, Flotta, Hoy, Rousay, Sanday, Shapinsay and Stronsay in Orkney Islands Council area; Fair Isle, Unst, Whalsey and Yell in Shetland Islands Council area.

Minister for energy, connectivity & the islands, Paul Wheelhouse, said, “Just a few months on from announcing the signing of the North Lot contract, this is another very significant step towards ensuring our commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband across Scotland, including to some of our most remote island communities.

“The role of digital connectivity in our everyday lives has never been clearer as we tackle the pandemic. The new subsea cables will ensure these 15 island communities have access to futureproofed, resilient, reliable connections – something that will make a huge difference to both residents and businesses there. It will help improve the quality of life for both current and future islanders, while also benefitting visitors once inbound tourism can safely return.

“Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecommunications infrastructure and this alongside our interventions on mobile connectivity, demonstrates we are taking innovative steps to provide superfast access to some of the hardest-to-reach areas.

“We have also developed plans, in parallel with main infrastructure investment, to ensure our 100% superfast commitment is met with our Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme. This will ensure that everyone can access and benefit from this world-leading digital capability.”

Robert Thorburn, partnership director at Openreach Scotland, added, “The subsea build is essential to bring reliable, fast broadband to those island communities which don’t yet have access.

“It’s a massive challenge, not only because of the number of cables involved and the sensitive and complex nature of the work, but also the fact it must be done while the weather is on our side. Our subsea partner Global Marine will have survey ships out in Scottish waters this Spring and Summer to start planning the cable routes.

“The advent of superfast broadband on our islands, through a previous subsea partnership, has been truly transformative. We’re hugely excited about the positive impact this latest R100 subsea build will have on island life.”