HIGH-speed fibre broadband is being rolled out to thousands of homes and businesses in Inverness for the first time.
• Inverness and Nairn first in BT roll-out
• Fort William, Dingwall and Oban to be connected later in 2013
• 84% of Highland homes and businesses to be on high-speed internet by 2016
BT today announced that more than 20,000 local households and firms in the Highland Capital will be able to join the high-speed revolution as engineers complete the local upgrade in the coming weeks.
Inverness and nearby Nairn are the first locations in the Highlands and Islands where fibre broadband is being made available.
They’ll be joined later this year by Dingwall, Fort William and Oban, and next year by Dunoon, Elgin and Forres, when the eight exchange areas will provide access to high-speed fibre broadband to around 47,400 homes and businesses across the region.
All eight exchange areas are being upgraded as part of BT’s £2.5 billion commercial fibre roll-out programme.
Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “BT’s fibre network is expanding into the heart of the Highlands, bringing a welcome boost for local economies wherever it goes. Research suggests that within 15 years fibre broadband could bolster the economy of a typical town by £143 million and create 225 new jobs, 140 new start-up businesses and 1,000 more homeworkers.
“As more than 1.5 million households and businesses have already discovered, fibre broadband opens up a whole new world to internet users. Whatever you’re doing online, you can do it better and faster with fibre. It’s great for education, shopping, entertainment, the social networking we now carry out routinely online and it also offers huge benefits for businesses and public services.
“The arrival of fibre in the Highland Capital can really help local firms in these economically challenging times, opening up new ways of working and speeding up vital operations, such as file and data transfers, conferencing and computer back-up, all of which may also help cut costs.”
In parallel with this huge UK-wide commercial investment programme, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and BT have agreed a £146 million contract which will bring high-speed fibre broadband to every part of the region.
This ambitious programme is being hailed as the UK’s most complex and challenging broadband project ever. More than £126 million of public funding is being invested through a partnership between the Scottish Government, BDUK and HIE.
Together with BT’s commercial rollout, it means that around 84 per cent of Highlands and Islands homes and businesses will have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2016.
Extensive planning and survey work is already well under way with the first tranche of exchange upgrades expected to be unveiled in the autumn.
After viewing the new technology at one of the new green street cabinets in St Valery Avenue, Inverness, local MP Danny Alexander spelled out the benefits of high-speed fibre broadband for the city.
Mr Alexander, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said: “With more and more homes and businesses relying on the internet, the standard service and speed of our broadband connection is becoming hugely important to everyday life.
“This technology speeds up new economic opportunities for the Highlands and we are rightly at the forefront of this roll-out”
“As demand has increased across the city, connection speeds have slowed down across the city. BT’s roll-out of high-speed fibre will deliver a welcome improvement for many people, and an significant boost to the local economy.”
At the launch of fibre broadband in Inverness, Carroll Buxton, HIE’s Director of Regional Development, said: “The rollout of superfast broadband takes the potential use of the internet to a whole new level. It’s not just about faster speeds, but also about the range of activity that can be managed online both by businesses and at home.
“It opens up new ways of living, working and doing business and has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits.
“HIE is delighted to see BT’s commercial rollout progressing in the Highlands and Islands.
“Working with them and our partners the Scottish Government and BDUK, we look forward to seeing our publicly funded project deliver faster, more reliable services to many more homes and businesses throughout the Highlands and Islands over the next couple of years.”
BT’s fibre footprint currently passes more than 15 million UK homes and businesses. It is now due to pass two-thirds of UK premises – around 19 million premises – by the end of Spring 2014, around 18 months ahead of the original timetable.
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.
FTTC offers download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps 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 demand 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 330Mbps.
According to the regulator Ofcom, the current average UK residential broadband download speed is 12Mbps.
At home, fibre broadband enables a family to simultaneously download a movie, watch a TV replay service, surf the internet and play games online all at the same time.
A whole album can be downloaded in less than 30 seconds and a feature length HD movie in less than 10 minutes, whilst high-resolution photos can be uploaded to Facebook in seconds.