BT awards Scot islands fibre contracts

BT awards Scot islands fibre contracts

BT has awarded three undersea cabling contracts to companies in the UK and France as it gears up to bring fibre optic broadband to Scottish islands.

Ships operated by Orange Marine, which is based in France but has a global market presence, will lay some 400 km of cables to islands off the northern coast of Scotland in an attempt to bring superfast broadband to consumers there.

Residents on the islands of Kintyre and Orkney have long complained about poor internet speeds and believe this is dragging down the local economy, which is dominated by fishing, oil and gas.

But the recent surge of wealth to the far north of Scotland that has been driven by oil exploration in the North Sea has led BT to expand its coverage to these remote areas, which present long-term opportunities for profitability.

The engineering project is part of a £146 million investment launched alongside the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is trying to improve the quality of life for residents in these economically important regions.

Stuart Robertson, director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: "From the outset HIE was determined that this project would reach across our region. The subsea cables are an essential part of bringing high speed broadband to our west coast communities.

"Their installation is essential in order to reach the 84 per cent coverage target for the region. The fibre network will bring services closer to everyone and will make it easier to provide better broadband."

BT expects that after the installation is complete residents will be able to access speeds of up to 80mbps, although it is currently unclear as to exactly when the project will be finished as similar efforts have ended up delayed or cancelled in the past.

The Scottish government has previously backed the HIE's call for greater funding for sparsely populated areas to the north of the country but previous schemes have been hampered by mismanagement and cabling issues.

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