Work to bring superfast broadband to the North of Scotland, including some of the most remote rural and island communities, will start in the New Year.

Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse confirmed the significant step forward for the £600 million Reaching 100% programme, announcing that the £384 million contract for the North of Scotland has been signed with BT, allowing work to move to the next stage.

Delivering speeds over 30 times faster than the Scottish Government’s superfast commitment, fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology will be used for more than 80% of addresses of the North lot contract build.

The contract will also involve the laying of 16 new subsea cables, ensuring future-proofed, resilient connections in all island local authorities.

Mr Wheelhouse said:

“The role of digital connectivity in our everyday lives has never been clearer as we tackle the pandemic, and the contract signature for the North lot, involving funding of £384 million, marks a significant step towards ensuring our 100% commitment is delivered across Scotland, including to some of our most remote and rural communities.

“Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecoms infrastructure and we are taking additional steps to provide superfast access to some of the hardest-to-reach areas. More than 80% of the build we are funding will provide full fibre to the premises and speeds of up to one Gigabit per second. Complex engineering work to lay 16 new subsea cables will provide resilient connections for our most remote communities and download speeds equal to that experienced in our most urban areas.

“We have also developed plans, in parallel with main infrastructure investment, to ensure our 100% superfast commitment is met with our Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme. This will ensure that everyone can access and benefit from this world-leading digital capability.”

BT plc has been contracted to deliver all of the R100 contracts and Openreach will commence survey work in the North lot area early in the New Year.

Openreach managing director Katie Milligan, said:

“Broadband has never mattered more – and demand for reliable connectivity has never been higher.

“Our network already reaches hundreds of remote and rural communities across the North of Scotland, shaping lives for the better. Openreach has the experience, people and passion to bring digital transformation to the very hardest-to-reach places – and we’re ready and raring to go.

“Getting to this point has been long and complex, and the build in the North, with its wild and beautiful land and seascapes, will bring new challenges to test our engineering inventiveness. We look forward to working in partnership with the Scottish Government to get this vital job done.”