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A day in the life of an R100 Openreach Engineer

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Matthew Cassidy, Openreach engineer for the Scottish Government’s Reaching 100% (R100) programme describes a typical day building faster internet across rural Scotland.

My career at Openreach began at the age of 18 as an apprentice. Having worked up the engineering pathway, now aged 25, I’m a specialist engineer based in Dundee, Angus. I’m proud to be working on the Chief Engineer’s team where I plan, organise, and deploy broadband infrastructure for the Scottish Government’s Reaching 100% (R100) programme.

R100 is being delivered through three strands of activity – the R100 contracts, the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme and continued commercial coverage. Openreach is the delivery partner for the R100 contracts.

Since the pandemic I’ve noticed how much R100 means to people and that we rely upon connectivity more than ever before. With more people working from home there’s a much higher demand for faster and reliable broadband speeds. I think the work of the R100 programme is crucial in reaching properties who aren’t currently able to access decent broadband. The vast majority of connections delivered through the R100 contracts will be Fibre to the Premises (FTTP).


R100 build in Pitlochry

I recently attended the R100 build taking place in Pitlochry on a cold winter’s day, here’s an insight into what it entailed.

A number of properties in Pitlochry are due to receive an improved broadband connection thanks to the R100 North contract. I visited four engineers who were installing an overhead fibre route. New fibre cables were being connected over existing poles as well as six new poles which were installed as part of the R100 programme to complete a route to reach rural steadings. The installation of this cable enabled three nearby addresses in a farming community to connect to full fibre broadband.

I then drove 4km to the west to visit a site where a mole plough had been used to lay 1,100 metres of cables in order to connect a sole farmhouse. Mole ploughing is a method for installing cables which is mainly used in rural areas as it can lay long sections of cable with no requirement to stop. This means that the works can be completed quicker with less disruption and environmental impact.

Although only one property will currently benefit, there’s plenty of surrounding land with potential for future property development. On my journey, I met a farmer who praised the work of R100 and said that residents are looking forward to their future connectivity and are excited about the benefits it will bring.

This R100 build I visited in Pitlochry will enable access to full fibre broadband for 26 addresses. The build requirements to reach these properties includes installing 11 new poles and some civils work. A total of 2,900 meters of mole plough armoured fibre, 100 metres of new duct and 5,500 meters of overhead cabling are some of the activities that have taken place to build the full fibre infrastructure. This is only one example of the many builds currently underway as part of R100 which really demonstrate the scale of what is involved in reaching these rural locations.

Exchange visits

Leaving Pitlochry, I headed to the Calvine exchange where I met with two engineers who were completing a full fibre connection. An exchange is a physical location in which important infrastructure is stored which is used to connect villages, towns or cities to broadband.

The circuits that the engineers were working on cover 132 addresses being connected through the R100 contract in Calvine. We were able to use an existing duct to provide the fibre connection here, which meant we were able to avoid any complex civil engineering requirements. 

What R100 means to me

Delivery of the R100 contracts is a huge civil engineering undertaking that will deliver broadband infrastructure to some of the most challenging areas in Scotland. Every aspect of the R100 contract build comes with its own unique challenges, such as logistics, location, subsea build, environmental, buried historic monuments and even an unexploded ordnance! If you can think of it, R100 has probably faced it.

There are many opportunities that come with working on R100 and most engineers want the chance to work on the programme because of the rural challenges it faces. There is no other contract I’d rather be working on than R100.

The job satisfaction coupled with the joy I see on residents’ faces makes me realise the difference the programme is making to peoples’ lives. I’m excited to be involved in delivering the R100 contracts, which I think is such an important initiative to help enable broadband access for rural residents and businesses across Scotland.