BT has announced the successful subsea installation of 250 miles of fibre optic cabling to take high-speed broadband to some of Scotland’s most remote communities.
French specialist firm Orange Marine has been working since July to lay the cable in 20 seabed crossings in the Highlands and Islands using remotely operated equipment.
The longest stretch of cable covers nearly 50 miles under the Minch from Ullapool to Stornoway.
BT said the £26.9 million project represents its most complex subsea engineering challenge to date, and Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney has described the work as a “hugely impressive technological feat”.
Work will now continue on linking the subsea connections together, with the first island communities to connect directly as a result of the new subsea cables expected to go live in the spring.
Communities will have access to fibre broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps, about 10 times faster than the current top speeds available on most Scottish islands, many of which are currently connected by radio links.
The announcement was made in Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae, one of 40 areas from Orkney to Kintyre which are included in the target of bringing high-speed fibre broadband to 84% of the Highlands and Islands by the end of 2016.
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Mr Swinney said: “Today marks an incredibly important step in the completion of the most complex ever underwater engineering that Scotland has seen. It is a hugely impressive technological feat that work has been completed in such a short time scale.
“In the coming months, thanks to the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme, many island communities will start to benefit from fibre broadband that otherwise would not have received coverage.
“The rollout of superfast broadband will allow many households across our islands to connect to fibre broadband services for the first time, as well as giving businesses the opportunity to enhance their services.”
BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: “This has been the most complex subsea project BT has tackled in UK waters, as well as being the largest number of seabed cables laid in a single weather window.
“I’m so proud of the endeavour shown by the whole team to overcome the technical and environmental challenges.
“This underwater spider’s web of fibre optic cables is set to deliver a seismic shift in communications for Scotland’s island communities, bringing them in closer touch with the rest of the world than ever before.”
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