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Openreach delivers full-fibre broadband to Scotland's Fair Isle

Openreach engineers visit homes on Fair Isle to install new full-fibre broadband

Openreach engineers visit homes on Fair Isle to install new full-fibre broadband (Credit: Openrach)

UK incumbent network provider Openreach has brought full-fibre broadband to Fair Isle, one of the UK’s most geographically remote inhabited islands.

The fibre starts its journey at a central distribution point in Lerwick Exchange and then passes through a repeater, in Sumburgh, 37km away, which amplifies the light signal. That allows it to travel on to its destination in Fair Isle, more than 75km away, using the new subsea fibre cable between Shetland and the island. The subsea cable stretches 68 miles from the Shetland to Orkney Islands, with Fair Isle reached by a spur line. A post office and shop are among businesses which are already connected to full-fibre and all premises on the island can now order the service.

The project has been funded through the Scottish Government’s £404.1 million Reaching 100% (R100) North contract, plus £17.4 million from the UK Government.

Adapting deployment to boost signal speeds

Openreach had to deploy an adaptation of technology currently delivered in many homes in order to boost the signal strength due to the distance between the islands. Installations also had to be carefully planned on the National Trust for Scotland-protected island, which is home to rare nesting birds and contains habitats of scientific and conservation value.

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray says: “I am delighted that we have achieved digital connectivity for Fair Isle almost two years earlier than planned. Through our R100 commitment to tackle some of the hardest-to-access terrain in the country, we are improving the educational and life opportunities available to young people across Scotland. This innovative step forward for engineering ensures children on Fair Isle are not left behind.

“We committed to invest further in our digital connectivity, despite powers being reserved to Westminster, because we know that by supporting remote working and rural businesses – from Fair Isle jumpers to tourism – we can help to build an island economy which is fair, green and prosperous.”

Openreach Chief Engineer for Scotland Fraser Rowberry adds: “Regular fibre signals just couldn’t go the distance, so we had to get creative with some world-first engineering to transmit life-changing ultrafast broadband over 100km to islanders. We had to do everything differently on Fair Isle, from planning around bird nesting seasons to setting up flat-packed cabins for our crew.

“A big shout-out to the people of Fair Isle for being so welcoming to our team. They’ve been amazing. Now, they’re connected to the world in a whole new way. This will make Fair Isle an even better place to be – for residents, visitors and future generations – and we’d encourage people on the island to upgrade to full-fibre.”


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