AN AMBITIOUS project to lay hundreds of miles of subsea cable has got under way on the west coast of Scotland.
Around 400km (248 miles) of fibre cable will be laid to bring superfast broadband to thousands of homes and businesses in island communities.
The cabling is part of the £410 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative aimed at bringing fibre-based broadband to remote parts of Scotland.
The Highlands and Islands part of the network will cost £146 million and is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with funding from the Scottish Government and Broadband Delivery UK.
The network is being installed by BT, which is investing £19 million in the area.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It’s fantastic news that this network will open up the benefits of high-quality digital connectivity to our island communities, making them more economically viable in the long-term.
“This is one of the most ambitious broadband infrastructure projects ever to have been undertaken and will see 95 per cent of premises in Scotland covered by 2017/18.
“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.”
Stuart Robertson, HIE’s director of digital Highlands and Islands, said: “Thousands of homes and businesses in island communities will benefit from the huge public investment being made to roll out fibre-based broadband across the Highlands and Islands.
“Its introduction will change how people can use technology and access the internet, opening up new ways of living, learning and working.”
Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “This is a momentous occasion for BT as we embark on the biggest subsea engineering project BT has undertaken in UK waters.
“It’s also a first for the number of seabed crossings we’re tackling in a single operation.
“It’s a massive test of engineering ingenuity, so we are keeping everything crossed for stable weather and a fair wind to allow sure and steadfast progress.”
Subsea routes where cables are being deployed include Largs, Cumbrae, Cowal, Mull, Oban, Ardgour and Corran.
The deep sea work will be carried out by Orange Marine’s cable ship Rene Descartes using the ship’s submersible plough and remotely operated vehicles which will bury the double armoured cable in the seabed.