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Read news and articles on the progress of the superfast broadband rollout in Scotland and more.

The challenges of a £600m infrastructure build

Friday, 27 October 2023

As one of the most ambitious infrastructure programmes in Europe, delivering faster broadband to some of the hardest to reach locations in Scotland comes with the occasional challenge.

Around 114,000 premises are due to benefit from the Scottish Government’s £600m Reaching 100% (R100) contracts, which are being rolled-out by delivery partner, Openreach.

Spread these premises over challenging terrain, including over 40 islands, and you start to get an idea of the task at hand. Add the Scottish weather into the mix, the pace at which broadband technology develops and it soon becomes a bigger challenge.

Gigabit capable broadband

All of the planned R100 contract build in the South and North, and the remaining build in Central will be gigabit capable fibre to the premises, which is more than 30 times faster than the original superfast commitment.

While this future-proofed technology is undoubtably a great outcome for the homes and businesses who are set to benefit from the R100 contracts, the more complex solution requires engineering works that will take more time to deliver.

Preparing for the unexpected

When entering postcodes into our online address checker, premises in R100 contract build plans are advised when they can expect access.

Openreach build to this schedule, but from time-to-time it takes longer than expected. Sometimes this can be due to matters beyond Openreach’s control like the weather, landslides or other environmental factors. This can hamper getting machinery and equipment to the right locations, particularly on islands. While such factors can be unpredictable, engineers try to minimise the impact where they can and plan ahead.

Issues may also emerge once build is underway with ground works or installations running into unexpected challenges that impact timescales. This can even include wildlife and uncovering species’ habitats in surprising places across the network.

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Getting the right build permissions can also hold up progress. This could be a wayleave for example.

A wayleave is a contractual agreement between a landowner, landlord or other individual and a telecommunications provider like Openreach. In certain circumstances, a landowner may be required to give written permission to let Openreach access land or property before any work can take place. Sometimes this process can take longer than expected.

There are also occasions when ongoing discussions with a special interest group, such as a local authority, a government agency or a public body, can delay build. Most of the time the build schedule is unaffected while these discussions take place, but it can add pressure to timescales especially when a wayleave is being considered (as these factors aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive).

Where work is required inside a block of flats or a shared building, additional wayleave consent may be needed from residents (or factors or agents working on their behalf).

Build efficiency

One of the side benefits of the R100 contracts is that a number of additional premises receive access to faster broadband. These are homes and businesses that weren’t expected to be connected through the R100 contract build, but received access from Openreach when they were building nearby, where engineers can find a way to draw them in.

Currently, over 8,100 premises* have benefited from this additional build so far. While additional build is welcome and is already increasing the reach of the R100 programme, it’s not guaranteed as several factors influence the outcome and every location is unique.

The sequencing of build is sometimes changed to allow Openreach to work more efficiently, for example, covering more ground in a particular location rather than visiting multiple times. This, however, can impact timings and means that some homes and businesses receive their access sooner, while for others it’s later.

Find out more

Once you know that your premises is in R100 contract build, sign-up to Openreach’s email alerts to keep track of your build.

Read more about the R100 programme, and if you’re not in R100 contract build or commercial plans, check out the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme where eligible premises may be able to secure up to £5,000 towards a faster broadband connection.

* at 30 September 2023

The R100 programme is funded through £592.2m of Scottish Government investment, £49.4m UK Government investment and £54.1m from BT Group.