R100 project to bring fibre broadband to Scottish islands

The Scottish government has announced that it will begin work this spring on delivering fibre broadband to some of the country’s remote islands through LOT 1 of its Reaching 100% (R100) project. LOT 1, or the North Lot, will connect 15 islands via new subsea cables.

The £384 million North Lot, the largest in the £600 million R100 project, will connect islands in four council areas: Colonsay, Iona and Lismore in Argyll and Bute; Eday, Flotta, Hoy, Rousay, Sanday, Shapinsay and Stronsay in Orkney; Fair Isle, Unst, Whalsey and Yell in Shetland; and Eigg in the Highland area.

Survey vessels aim to start groundwork in May of this year, weather permitting, with cable laying due to start in spring 2022. BT has been awarded the contract to deliver the whole R100 project, with Openreach heading the infrastructure build.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity & the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse commented: “Just a few months on from announcing the signing of the North Lot contract, this is another very significant step towards ensuring our commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband across Scotland, including to some of our most remote island communities.”

“The role of digital connectivity in our everyday lives has never been clearer as we tackle the pandemic. The new subsea cables will ensure these 15 island communities have access to futureproofed, resilient, reliable connections – something that will make a huge difference to both residents and businesses there. It will help improve the quality of life for both current and future islanders, while also benefitting visitors once inbound tourism can safely return.”

Openreach Scotland Partnership Director Robert Thorburn added: “The subsea build is essential to bring reliable, fast broadband to those island communities which don’t yet have access. It’s a massive challenge, not only because of the number of cables involved and the sensitive and complex nature of the work, but also the fact it must be done while the weather is on our side.”