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BT scores £146 meellion more UK.gov cash to fibre up Balamory

BDUK? BTUK, more like. And no, it won't be here in 2015

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

BT is the only company still bidding for Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) government funds after Fujitsu officially walked away from the process last week: unsurprisingly the national telco has won another fibre contract.

This time, it's bagged a £146m government deal to deploy broadband networks in Scotland's sprawling Highlands and Islands, covering seven local authorities. And, once again, BT has said that the project won't be completed until the end of 2016.

The Coalition government has an ambitious plan to get 90 per cent of the UK hooked up to "superfast" broadband by 2015. But the target appears to have been missed already, based on BT's repeated insistence with nearly every new contract win that the work won't be finished in time for the deadline set by Whitehall.

As for the details of this contract, BT said it had inked an agreement to roll out mainly fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology with theoretical download speeds of up to 80Mbmps to locations in the Highlands and Islands - which it described as the country's "most complex and challenging broadband project ever."

But BT won't hit the 90 per cent mark laid out by the Ministry of Fun - instead it said 84 per cent of homes and businesses in the region will get fibre broadband by the end of 2016.

The company explained:

Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not initially be able to access fibre-based broadband. Alternative solutions for these locations are being investigated.

This is plausible as in the remote Highlands and Islands, even once fibre-up cabinets appear in towns and villages, many premises are still likely to be so far from their nearest cabinet as not to gain any particular benefit from the fact that the cabinet has access to the fibre network.

The cash was stitched together from the Scottish government broadband investment pot - that incorporates central British funding from BDUK. On top of that, economic and community development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise slapped £12m on the pile. BT is dribbling £19.4m of its own capital into the project.

Here's a message from broadband minister Ed Vaizey - who is increasingly distancing himself from the 2015 target he once so loudly trumpeted:

The geography of the Highlands and Islands makes this project one of the most challenging in our nationwide roll out of broadband, and I'm delighted that today's announcement means that faster speeds and better access are now one step closer to becoming a reality for these communities.

We do more business online than any other European country and this will be a tremendous boost for the local Highland and Islands economies.

As for the technical detail of this deployment, BT explained that it would build a fibre backbone with more than 800km of new cabling on land. It then plans to install hundreds more kilometres of fibre access cable to be fed to hundreds of streetside cabinets.

Additionally, engineers will lay around 400km of subsea cables over 19 crossings to remote islands, the national telco said. ®

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