R100 SBVS takes to the South of Scotland
Monday, 12 December 2022
Monday, 12 December 2022
Steve Bradford is the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme deployment manager for the South of Scotland. In this blog, he shares updates from his recent trip to meet suppliers in the region.
I started working for the R100 programme back in January 2020 where I was involved in the development and launch of the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS). Later that year, I became an R100 deployment manager for the South of Scotland region.
R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme
R100 SBVS has always been an integral part of the R100 programme, alongside the other key strands of activity – R100 contracts and continued commercial build. Over 2,600 vouchers have been delivered across Scotland so far, which is fantastic to see having been involved during the early days of SBVS.
R100 SBVS identifies premises which are not covered by current R100 contract plans or commercial build and provides a range of technology types and suppliers who can provide a superfast broadband service.
In my role as deployment manager, I’m responsible for suppliers in the South of Scotland and how they engage with R100 SBVS. I was excited to get out and meet with suppliers who I had not met with in person since the pandemic. During my trip I met with Busby Telecoms, Fibairo, Qubiti and GigaAir Ltd who are among some of the suppliers registered on the scheme.
I met with Paul Moffat who is the director of Busby Telecoms. Paul’s office is on the Southside of Glasgow, reached by a short journey on the Glasgow Subway. I find the Clockwork Orange both ingenious in its simple design and confusing in equal measures!
A warm welcome and a cup of tea was forthcoming. Paul and I instantly found common ground, having both started our careers as BT apprentices. We spent the first twenty minutes discussing old times and our shared love of BT vans. My personal favourite is the Bedford HA. Image below - courtesy of Openreach.
Paul covers the whole of mainland Scotland and has also delivered vouchers on Mull. Paul mentioned that following the closure of the interim voucher scheme back in March, mobile installations have become popular with 5G overtaking 4G. Whilst the router is slightly more expensive for the customer, the broadband service is a lot faster and Paul regularly achieves speeds of 1Gbps using Three’s 5G network. Monthly costs for beneficiaries are the same, whether it’s a 4G or 5G solution.
Paul has also noticed the increasing popularity of Starlink installations. Starlink is a satellite constellation that uses a Low Earth Orbit technology to deliver broadband capable of supporting streaming, online gaming, video calls and more. Paul regularly receives requests to carry out installations achieving speeds between 120 and 400 Mbps.
An early start, travelling from Glasgow Central, I arrived at The Crichton on the outskirts of Dumfries to meet Mark Wheeler, the CEO of Fibairo. We met at the magnificent 85 acre Victorian campus, which is home to one of the Scotland 5G Centre’s hubs.
Since registering on the SBVS, Fibairo have outsourced all design, installation and customer management activities, only retaining a small core management team. This allows them flexibility and a far tighter control on costs.
Fibairo use TV white space broadband technology which makes use of ‘spare’ TV frequencies as a result of the analogue TV switch off. The signals can travel long distances and can pass through trees and similar obstructions. Fibairo is the only R100 SBVS supplier that has delivered connections on the scheme using this technology.
Fibairo have approved broadband packages providing superfast broadband connections to a number of the Victorian buildings. To this end, The Crichton has become their operational centre and Fibairo have acquired a purpose built communications room, not only to serve the campus, but also to facilitate any future projects.
As my short walk across the historic Devorgilla Bridge led me to Qubiti’s HQ in Market Street, the River Nith was in full flow due to the recent rain. I met with Katie and Roisin who are the office managers.
Katie explained they are not seeing the demand for 4G broadband installations and echoed the comments of Paul at Busby Telecom regarding the increasing popularity of Starlink. They now carry out more Starlink installations than 4G broadband. In summary, they were both very grateful to see a representative from the Scottish Government and made me feel very welcome, apart from Lizzo the office guard dog…
I met with Alan Cameron, the director at GigaAir at his office in Easterhouse, Glasgow. To date, Alan has sought to deliver gigabit capable wireless to the centre of Glasgow using the latest technology. We discussed GigaAir’s Gbit radio network, the core of which is now complete. One of the issues which Alan and the team has encountered has been obtaining landlord permissions for using roof space for mounting antennas. It’s something that many other suppliers come across too and unfortunately has an impact on customer connections.
Alan recently completed an Openreach cabling and fibre splicing course, which coupled with his PIA license will allow him access to Openreach’s network and start to deliver Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). He’s also built a comms room within his office building, which has a dedicated 10 Gbps leased line from Iomart in the centre of Glasgow. This has allowed GigaAir to provide wireless connections within the local business area.
Looking back on my visits
Reflecting on my supplier visits, it’s clear that mobile connections and Starlink have become popular technology types for some suppliers following the closure of the interim voucher scheme. I think that mobile connections are a good solution for those living and working in rural locations.
It’s been really valuable spending time with suppliers and seeing how they operate first hand. It was great being able to meet them in person and see how their unique methods are making a real difference and helping people access faster broadband speeds.
Find out if you’re eligible for the R100 SBVS by entering your postcode into our online address checker.