The Scottish Government has made it clear that it aims to put green jobs at the heart of the economy and has set a net zero target by 2045.
At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way we live and work, forcing us all to rely on digital connectivity like never before. And, even when our lives slowly return to something closer to normal, the digital genie cannot be put back in its bottle and it will form a pivotal role in helping governments across the world meet their climate targets. As we live with the effects of the virus for the foreseeable future, the rapid rollout and adoption of full fibre is the single most important element in Scotland’s economic recovery.
Without this critical infrastructure we won’t be able to take full advantage of the opportunities that a fully-fledged digital economy will create. The speed and reliability of full fibre networks far outstrips those currently available. For example, the current average download speed available to homes in Aberdeen on the existing copper network is 36 Mbps. With full fibre, homes and businesses will be able to achieve upload and download speeds of 1,000 Mbps, allowing them to live and work more efficiently and productively, unconstrained by legacy infrastructure. The network will be greener, consuming far less power than current systems, and will be much more reliable.
Our aspiration should not be to simply keep up with other countries that have surged ahead in their own rollouts of full fibre; it should be to surpass them. This is an opportunity for Scotland and the UK to lead, to usher in an era of world-class digital infrastructure; low carbon, low latency and software defined.
With this in mind, we welcomed the Scottish Government’s recent Infrastructure Commission report, which concluded that “the Scottish Government should provide the leadership required to ensure the delivery of a full fibre network for Scotland by 2027 to enable the transition to 5G across the whole of Scotland.”
Achieving nationwide coverage means completing one of the biggest engineering programmes in our history, rolling out new full fibre networks to every street in every city, town and village in the country. To do this will require unique collaboration and creativity on the part of industry, Government and the regulator to remove deployment and investment barriers. The good news is that the pace is quickening across the industry and full fibre continues to attract investor support for incumbents and for rapidly scaling players like CityFibre.
The fruits of this investment are now starting to come through too, with the UK’s first full fibre cities coming online. This includes constructing full fibre networks to practically every home and business in Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and Dundee, with further network builds in Fort William, Wick and Thurso set to bring full fibre to 150-plus public sector sites in the Highlands. This represents a private investment currently totalling over £440m from CityFibre in Scotland’s digital infrastructure.
But while there is progress to be proud of, this is no time for complacency. To complete the job, we will all need to go even faster and build even smarter.
We are up for the challenge and ready to play our part in a bold effort to make full fibre for all a reality across Scotland.