Ultrafast broadband for 300,000 homes across rural Scotland
Economy secretary Kate Forbes welcomes ‘vitally important’ investment
Openreach today outlined plans to build ultrafast, ultra-reliable Full Fibre broadband to at least three million more homes and businesses – including more than 300,000 in Scotland – in some of the UK’s hardest to serve communities[i]. It means fewer homes and businesses will require taxpayer subsidies to upgrade.
More than 160 exchange areas across Scotland will be upgraded, with the majority of homes and businesses in places such as Fort William, Oban, Turriff, Burntisland, North Berwick, Pitlochry, Carstairs and Stranraer set to benefit from what will be a massive nationwide, five-year feat of civil engineering.
Island communities like Brodick on Arran, Portree on Skye, Stornoway, Kirkwall and Lerwick are also included, with more than 60,000 households and businesses set to benefit across the Highlands and Islands, alongside 30,000 in Aberdeenshire; 20,000 in Angus; 30,000 in Dumfries and Galloway; and 25,000 across Ayrshire.
Today’s announcement expands on Openreach’s existing nationwide build plans, which already include hundreds of thousands more premises in 100 other Scottish cities, towns and villages. The company is also delivering the main build for the Scottish Government’s R100 programme.
The company’s updated build plan follows an extended investment commitment by its parent, BT Group – which means Openreach will now build Full Fibre technology to a total of 25 million UK premises, including the additional three million in hardest-to-serve communities.
The plans also include an extension to the company’s biggest ever recruitment drive, with a further 1,000 new roles being created in 2021 on top of the 2,500 jobs announced in December 2020 – of which 275 were in Scotland. This means that by the end of 2021, Openreach will have created and filled more than 9,000 apprenticeship roles since 2017/18.
Scottish Government Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “This is good news for Scotland. The rollout of ultrafast broadband to so many more rural communities is vitally important, especially as we focus on recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Continued commercial build is an important part of the Reaching 100% Programme’s aim to provide access to superfast speeds for all premises. This focus on rural and hard-to-reach areas is exactly what I want to see and I look forward to hearing that these 300,000 addresses are connected.”
Robert Thorburn, Openreach Scotland’s strategic infrastructure director, said: “Building a new broadband network across Scotland is a massive challenge and some parts of the country will inevitably require further public funding. But our expanded build plan means any future taxpayer subsidies can be limited to only the hardest to connect homes and businesses. And with investments from other builders, we’d hope to see that shrink further.
“The impact of Full Fibre broadband - stretching from increased economic prosperity and international competitiveness to higher employment and environmental benefits – will be a massive boost for Scotland and the rest of the UK. We’re also delighted to continue bucking the national trend by creating more Scottish jobs, with apprentices joining in their droves to start their careers.
“We’ll publish further location details and timescales on our website as detailed surveys and planning are completed and the build progresses. In the meantime, people can also check what’s already available – which includes around 400,000 homes and businesses across Scotland that can already access full fibre on the Openreach network.”
Openreach is already building Full Fibre faster, at lower cost and higher quality than anyone else in the UK, having made the technology available to more than 4.7 million homes and business so far. With download speeds of 1 Gbps, it’s up to 10 times faster than the average home broadband connection. That means faster game downloads, better quality video calls and higher resolution movie streaming.
Households can use multiple devices at once without experiencing slowdown – so more people can get online at once. Full fibre is also less affected by peak time congestion – so users can enjoy their Saturday night blockbuster in 4K without the dreaded buffering screen.
Openreach is using a range of innovations and techniques to deliver the build, whilst a major investment in its Scottish training centre in Livingston is helping to skill thousands of new engineers. Openreach Scotland has a workforce of around 3,200 people.
Recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) highlighted the clear economic benefits of connecting the nation to full fibre, creating a c. £2bn boost by enabling more people to enter the workforce.
Notes to Editors
- £15bn – total investment in Openreach’s Full Fibre build programme
- 25m – premises Openreach expects to build to by December 2026
- 4m – premises Openreach will build to each year at its peak
- 2m – premises Openreach built to during FY 20/21 (up from 1m in 19/20).
- 1m – customer connections live already
- Up to 7,000 – new trainee engineering jobs to be created within Openreach and partners in the supply chain as a result of increasing build from 20 to 25m by December 2026
[i] The vast majority of these locations fall within the ‘final third’ or ‘Geographic Area 3’, which is defined by Ofcom as 9.5 million premises in the least commercially viable areas of the UK for competitive broadband infrastructure upgrades.
ii Build costs fall within BT Group’s publicly stated range of £300-400 per premises passed, on average and excluding connection costs. All locations upgrades are subject to a detailed survey.
Photo: Openreach’s Chief Engineer Andy Whale met some of the 275 new trainee engineers the company is taking on in Scotland this year as they worked on the rural full fibre build in Dunbar, East Lothian, earlier this week.
Openreach Limited is the UK’s digital network business.
We’re more than 34,000 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 660 communications providers like SKY, TalkTalk, Vodafone, BT and Zen, and our fibre broadband network is the biggest in the UK, passing more than 31.8m premises.
Over the last decade we’ve invested more than £14 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 FTTP target to reach 20m premises by mid-to-late 2020s. We’ve also hired more than 3,000 trainee engineers this past financial year to help us build that network and deliver better service across the country.
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 2020, we reported revenue of £5bn.
For more information, visit www.openreach.co.uk.