Kate Forbes MSP connects with ultrafast broadband

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes this week visited Openreach engineers to find out about the next generation of ultrafast broadband.

The MSP learned about ‘full fibre’ technology – future-proof, reliable services that can carry broadband speeds up to 1Gbps1 – around 18.5 times faster than the UK’s current average, which recently topped 54Mbps according to Ofcom.

She also tried her hand at ‘splicing’ tiny fibre-optic strands using specialist equipment, visited Drumnadrochit exchange and got an update on superfast services locally. According to the independent website Think Broadband, 80 per cent of premises across the Highlands and Islands are now able to connect to broadband at a superfast speed of 30Mbps and above.

Superfast services make use of street cabinets (known as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet or FTTC) while ultrafast full fibre (Fibre-to-the-Premises or FTTP) goes directly to peoples’ homes.

Kate Forbes MSP said: “Good connectivity is absolutely vital for my communities, and it can either unlock great potential or cause huge frustration.

“It’s been useful to hear about Openreach’s plans for future-proofing Scotland’s digital infrastructure so we can be one of the very best digital economies, and how engineering innovations have made it more viable to build full fibre networks in rural locations.

“Scotland is in the early stages of a journey to full fibre connectivity, a technology that’s been used in the Digital Scotland partnership to get to some harder-to-reach and scattered properties. I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about the issues facing my communities and how Openreach can support them.”

As well as its commercial investment in upgrades, Openreach has been working closely with the Scottish and UK Governments, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, local authorities and other partners since 2013 to bring fibre-based broadband to communities which were not included in any upgrade plans by private companies.

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership rollout has reached more than 188,600 Highlands and Islands premises, with most able to access FTTC broadband and small deployments of FTTP in areas where it’s the best technical solution.

Brendan Dick, chair of the Openreach Board in Scotland, who hosted the visit, said: “We know good, reliable broadband is really important to local people. There’s been great progress in the Highlands and Islands, and work is ongoing. There’s more to do and we want to play our part.

“Superfast broadband is more widely available in the UK than in practically any other comparable nation on earth – and this has led the UK to have the leading digital economy in the G20. Our engineers work hard every day to keep Highland communities, businesses and vital public services connected.”

Openreach’s FTTC footprint, at speeds of up to 80Mbps*, currently passes around 2.6 million homes and business premises in Scotland. It’s also starting to roll out FTTP more widely, with plans to reach four million homes and businesses across the UK by March 2021, and, if the conditions are right, to go significantly beyond.


Notes to editors

1 These are wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. FTTP is capable of delivering the fastest residential broadband speeds in the UK – up to 1Gbps – fast enough to download a two hour HD movie in 25 seconds or a 45-minute HD TV programme in just five seconds.

Read more news about Openreach in Scotland

About Openreach

Openreach Limited is the UK’s digital network business.  

We’re more than 35,000 people, working in every community to connect homes, schools, shops, banks, hospitals, libraries, mobile phone masts, broadcasters, governments and businesses – large and small – to the world. 

Our mission is to build the best possible network, with the highest quality service, making sure that everyone in the UK can be connected. 

We work on behalf of more than 665 communications providers like BT, SKY, TalkTalk, Vodafone, and Zen, and our broadband network is the biggest in the UK, passing more than 31.8m premises. 

Over the last decade we’ve invested more than £15 billion into our network and, at more than 190 million kilometres – it’s now long enough to wrap around the world 4,798 times. 

Today we’re building an even faster, more reliable and future-proof broadband network which will be the UK’s digital platform for decades to come. We’re making progress towards our full fibre optic network target to reach 25 million premises by December 2026. Research shows a nationwide Full Fibre network could potentially provide a £59bn boost to UK productivity.

To help build the new fibre network and deliver better service across the country – we’ve created and filled more than 9,000 apprenticeship roles in the last two years and we’re recruiting another 1,000 trainee roles in Openreach in 2021. We’re also building greener – we operate the UK’s second largest commercial fleet and want to help lead the transition to electric vehicles, with a target to transition our fleet to being electric in 2030. 

Openreach is a highly regulated, wholly owned, and independently governed unit of the BT Group. More than 90 per cent of our revenues come from services that are regulated by Ofcom and any company can access our products under equivalent prices, terms and conditions. 

For the year ended 31 March 2021, we reported revenue of £5,244m.

For more information, visit www.openreach.co.uk