How We Are Building the Network

Below you can click through the different stages of the journey that a cabinet takes before fibre becomes available for you to order.  Typically the timescales given refer to the average time taken to move through the cabinet journey based on historical analysis but can be subject to change due to a wide variety of factors.


We Are Exploring Solutions

We're evaluating options to improve internet connection speeds in your area and to bring fibre broadband to as many people as possible but unfortunately don't have a fibre plan for your area yet. Find out about alternative solutions 

If you would like us to contact you when fibre broadband becomes available in your postcode area, register your details here   

In Scope

You're in scope for fibre broadband plans but we haven't started work yet.  Plans may be part of the Digital Scotland programme or through a commercial programme.  When work begins you will move into the “Design” Phase of the journey.


The overall Openreach network plan is based on everything that’s up poles and down holes, and on the street.

DESIGN (typically takes 12 months from this stage to being able to place an order).

The first step in delivering to a particular location is to carry out initial planning based on Openreach network records. At the end of this design process, we’ll have a blueprint in place for delivering fibre to your area.


Field Survey

FIELD SURVEY (typically takes 9 months from this stage to being able to place an order)

  • We’ll now take the blueprints from the design stage to your area, and make sure that what looks good on paper works in the real world. We do this by carrying out an on-site physical survey to check the situation on the ground and work out where we can build the fibre cabinet, and lay the fibre cables. Our surveyor needs to check that there’s sufficient space alongside all the existing utilities underground for our new wires, and whether the street cabinet is large enough for a fibre upgrade or needs replacing. We’ll also need to determine whether we’ll need to close any roads to install fibre and, if so, apply to the local authority for road traffic management, traffic lights etc. We’ll liaise closely with your local authority to ensure fibre is installed safely and with the minimum of disruption to local people.
  • What happens during the field survey
    The position of the existing green copper cabinet is identified (sometimes the plans are out of date or the cabinet is hidden by shrubbery!)
  • The surveyor looks for a suitable place to site the new fibre cabinet. There are restrictions as to where the new cabinet can be placed, just some of the factors that need to be taken into account include:
  • The distance between the existing copper cabinet and the new fibre cabinet – for performance reasons they need to be located as close to each other as possible
  • Access to a suitable power supply – unlike the copper cabinet, the fibre cabinet requires a power supply, which needs to be as close as possible to minimise costs
  • Pedestrian access – it is important that the fibre cabinet does not impinge on a footpath, a minimum of 1.2 metres has to be left between the front of the cabinet and the edge of the footpath to allow pedestrians to pass safely
  • Road users – it is important that the fibre cabinet does not affect the view of motorists especially if it needs to be placed near a road junction
  • Land ownership – we need to identify who owns the land around the existing copper cabinet. It could be that we have to seek permission from the landowner to site the infrastructure on their land (known as a wayleave)
  • Underground structures – it is essential to know what other utilities may be in the area such as gas pipes or water mains. These will need to be taken into account when digging to install the new ducting
  • Safety – there is a need to ensure that the fibre cabinet is sited in such a way so not to provide a security risk for any nearby property, for example, could it be used as a means of climbing over a wall
  • Condition of existing infrastructure – it is important to note the size and condition of the existing copper cabinet. It could be that the copper cabinet itself is too small to house the extra equipment needed and therefore it will need to be changed for a larger one.

As you can see, the surveying of the existing, and planning for the new, infrastructure is a vital stage in the whole process.

However assuming that we don’t encounter any major problems, the completed survey is returned to Openreach network planning. It can then be planned and sent to the on-the-ground installation team. At this stage we get the actual power design from the power company and align traffic management, power connection and fibre cabinet build dates. 




BUILD (typically it takes about 5 months from this stage to being able to place an order)

At this point we’re ready to start the physical work in your community. We’ll be installing the new fibre cabinet and bringing fibre cable from your local telephone exchange to your area. You might see our teams working in the footway boxes along your street as they bring the fibre cable through the underground ducts or overhead on telephone poles.

We’ll also be putting the fibre cabinet in position which might cause a bit of disruption with traffic diversion and closed pavements, we’ll do our best to reduce this. Throughout the build phase we continue to work closely with the power companies and local authorities to reduce delays and keep disruption to a minimum.


CONNECT (typically it takes about 4 months from this stage to being able to place an order)

We’re now connecting the power and fibre cables to the brand new fibre cabinet in your area. We need to test and certify the power connection is working properly. The existing copper and new fibre cabinets have to be connected to each other by underground copper cables. The physical build is now completed and there shouldn’t need to be any further works in your area.


ACTIVATE (typically this takes place about a month before you will be able to place an order)

We're performing our final quality and safety checks in your area, and updating our network records.  We'll also let service providers know that fibre connections are available in your area.

The decision to offer services will be down to each individual internet service provider according to their business model and is outside the control of Digital Scotland.

Any service provider can use the fibre infrastructure to provide you with internet services.  You do need to place and order with a service provider to get a faster connection - it doesn't just happen automatically.

Accepting Orders

Great news, you can order a fibre service! To find out what options are available to you, speak to your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP) about the services they offer as upgrade isn’t automatic.

The Challenge


We are delivering one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Europe – each week we reach thousands more homes and businesses each week. This is the fastest roll-out of its kind anywhere in the UK, passing 150,000 premises in record time late 2014 - an engineering feat of the kind for which Scotland is renowned.


By spring 2016 we'd laid over 5000km of cable - enough to stretch all the way to New York and beyond. By the time we finish the programme we'll probably have laid enough cable to reach the Southern Hemisphere!


As we tackle each stage, we only discover potential hold-ups as engineers arrive on-site to lay cables and connect local green roadside cabinets 

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), which is the main fibre technology currently in use in the Scottish network, uses fibre-optic cables throughout the network right up to the street cabinet. Copper wires then connect the cabinet to homes and businesses. FTTC currently offers download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds up to 20Mbps.

This means we can’t tell you exactly when you can order faster broadband until the infrastructure is in place. You can see indicative timescales on our interactive map.

A choice of service providers

We are delivering an ‘open access’, network, which means you will have a choice of Internet Service Provider (ISP) once the network is in place. We are not an ISP, i.e. we do not sell fibre broadband to homes or businesses. You can learn about how to order here.

Why we can’t provide exact dates for your superfast broadband switch on

To explain this properly we want to give you more detail about how the new faster broadband network is built and the challenges involved. This is a concise, jargon-free overview of one of the biggest civil engineering programmes of its kind in Europe - find out more here.  If you would like more detailed technical information, please visit the Openreach website


The bigger strategic picture

Scottish Government is committed to improving internet speeds for everyone by 2020. The fibre network being built as part of the Digital Scotland programme will take us a long way towards that goal. By the end of March 2018 around 95% of homes and businesses will be able to connect to fibre and benefit from faster internet speeds.


  • Bringing faster speeds to as many people as possible with the funding available
  • Delivering an 'open access' network which any internet service provider can use to provide services. More competition means more choice and a better deal for consumers and businesses.

So what does this mean for how we build the network?

The main technology being used is Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). This can provide up to 80Mbps download and 20Mbps upload speeds – more than most people will need. To understand speed see our 'Understanding Fibre Speeds' publication available from our downloads page.

Where we can’t deliver FTTC, we will look at alternatives such as Fibre to the Premise (FTTP). Where fibre is not a feasible solution, we will be exploring alternatives such as satellite and wireless technologies to deliver faster internet speeds.


Fibre broadband explained 

We are delivering fibre – or faster – broadband, which includes Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). The majority of our new network will be FTTC.

There are different ways of delivering faster broadband and a number of stages that each area has to go through before homes and businesses can actually order a fibre broadband service from their choice of Internet Service Provider (ISP).

The new faster broadband network will be made up of a series of hubs serving local communities, all joined up to each other. Each hub has a central Serving Exchange (called a ‘Head End’), feeding local exchanges which feed multiple green roadside cabinets which in turn feed hundreds of homes and businesses.

There are over 1000 telephone exchanges involved in this programme, benefitting hundreds of Scottish communities.


Our engineering partners

We have a contract with BT PLC so Openreach engineers are responsible for standing cabinets and running cables. 

Engineers placing cabinets is not necessarily a sign that the service is coming soon. Each exchange area has to go through numerous stages and it can take 10-15 months to stand one cabinet to start getting it ready for service.