Poor Scottish broadband connectivity: can it be fixed?

Theresa May announced, on her recent visit to Edinburgh, that the government would invest £1.2 billion in the south-east of Scotland – a significant proportion of which would go towards “data-driven innovation [through] exceptional research and development activities”, as claimed by City of Edinburgh Council leader, Adam McVey.

However, if much of this innovation relies on reliable broadband connectivity, Head of Business Development at VXFIBER Richard Watts voices concerns.

The Scottish Government’s “Digital Scotland” superfast broadband (DSSB) initiative has brought fibre-based internet connectivity to more than 890,000 properties – around 95 per cent of homes and businesses – with no end in sight. The majority of these premises are expected to access superfast speeds.

Although the country aims to reach speeds of 30Mbps or more to 100 per cent of homes and businesses by 2021 through its £600 million 'Reaching 100%' (R100) programme, it appears this is not enough.

“It still lags significantly behind other European countries in its vision and objective. For example, Sweden has its own broadband strategy for 2025 in which 98 per cent of broadband lines will be able to access a 1Gbps service – more than 30x faster than superfast (24Mbps) and 10x faster than ultrafast (100Mbps) services,” says Watts.

Demand for faster speeds is likely to grow exponentially and will be closely interlinked with economic productivity, and so it is anticipated that superfast, and even ultrafast, internet will be rendered obsolete in comparison to the connectivity of surrounding countries.

Watts, however, suggests an alternative: full fibre “open access” Gigabit networks installed by local government authorities.

While Watts predicts it may take time for authorities to make financial gains on the open access network, he states that making the transition sooner rather than later will be less expensive in the long run.

Ultimately, superfast and ultrafast connectivity is only a short-term solution to the problem at hand, and to resolve Scotland’s slow broadband conundrum, a locally installed “open access” Gigabit fibre infrastructure is the way forward.