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Broadband speeds set to rocket for remote Scottish communities

Press release   •   Jun 13, 2017 10:00 BST

Ditch Witch operator Alex Egan with Openreach CEO Clive Selley at Borgie by Skerray

Altnaharra and Skerray to work with Openreach on new high-speed pilot

Two of Scotland’s small, remote mainland communities will see their broadband speeds surge to among the fastest in the UK in a new Openreach initiative unveiled today.

Ultrafast fibre will be laid straight to the door in the Caithness and Sutherland communities of Altnaharra and Skerray by Bettyhill, with villagers set to see their download speeds rocket from less than 0.5Mbps to up to 330Mbps* by this autumn.

All 45 of the scattered households linked to the Altnaharra telephone exchange are due to be included, while in Skerray around 100 premises could benefit.

Villagers are set to work with Openreach to help deliver the new network by digging in cables to the more remote premises. People will be able to migrate to the new Fibre-to-the Premises (FTTP) services once the work is complete, as this process is not automatic.

The work will also help to address a high fault rate in Skerray, where existing copper cables buried under the beach have suffered regular damage by lightning strikes.

Visiting the two villages today, Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: “As our core fibre spines penetrate even deeper into rural Scotland, it brings new opportunities to improve broadband speeds for remote communities.

“In Altnaharra and Skerray we’re assessing a new concept, building fibre from new nodes off the spines direct to local properties with support from the local communities. This builds on recent partnership and commercial investments in the Highlands and Islands.

“We’ll test how we can use the spines to reach very rural communities, and the distances over which we can use fibre effectively. Our learning from these innovative trials will inform our wider fibre strategy and could potentially help us to reach other very remote communities around the UK.

“The two pilot communities will see their broadband speeds jump dramatically, as well as improvements to their existing services, so this is a win-win situation.”

The two new initiatives are being funded by Openreach, with both communities pledging to help with some of the digging work.

In Altnaharra, the Altnaharra Estate will dig in new cable which crosses its land while in Skerray, residents who live some distance from the core network have agreed to dig in sections of cable to their properties, to specifications agreed with Openreach.

Around 200 premises in Bettyhill already have access to fibre broadband at speeds up to 80Mbps* through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership, led in the area by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and delivered on the ground by Openreach.


*These are wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers, and attainable over individual lines, may vary.

For more information contact the Openreach Scotland press office on our free 24-hour number: 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be accessed at:

About Openreach

Openreach is the UK’s leading digital infrastructure provider.

Its 32,000 employees are responsible for building and maintaining millions of miles of fibre and copper cables that connect every home and business in the UK to local telephone exchanges. Openreach operates and maintains this network to deliver a range of wholesale services for more than 580 retail providers, who in-turn provide telephony, broadband, TV and data services to more than 30 million consumer and business customers throughout the country.

Openreach is a highly regulated business, with more than 90 per cent of its revenues generated from services that are regulated by Ofcom. Any company can access its products under exactly the same prices, terms and conditions.

Over the last decade, Openreach has invested more than £10bn into its network and is currently building the UK’s largest fibre broadband footprint. This technology is available to more than 26 million homes and businesses, with tens of thousands more gaining access each week.

Openreach is a wholly owned and independently governed division of the BT Group. For the year ended 31 March 2017, it reported revenues of £5.1bn.

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