High speed digital connectivity is an essential part of Scotland’s Digital Future - an enabler of both economic and community benefits. Superfast Broadband will aid the sustainability and growth of Scotland’s communities, not least by improving remote delivery of public services. It will also enable new forms of remote working, education and healthcare in rural communities.
The £146 million Superfast Broadband project to deliver next generation broadband to the area was led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and was directly funded by HIE, the Scottish Government and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (Broadband Delivery UK).
Atkins began providing technical, commercial and procurement support to HIE in January 2011. Our work included the delivery of the business case, procurement strategy and technical specification as well as evaluating the technical and commercial aspects of the tender responses and of the live project. We also completed the EU State Aid notification and provided modelling and evaluation of the deployment costs of superfast broadband to meet the coverage and bandwidth targets for the Highlands and Islands region.
The project’s target is to ensure that 84% of premises in the Highlands and Islands region have access to superfast broadband networks by the end of 2016. However, the dramatic geography and disparate population of the region presented significant technical and cost challenges for the project. Our project specification therefore included the provision of 400km of new subsea fibre optic cables linking the Inner/Outer Hebrides and Orkney Islands, and over 800km of new fibre optic cable backbone and Fibre to the Cabinet/Home.
We also led contract negotiations to appoint a partner to deliver the roll out of the infrastructure. In April 2013, HIE appointed BT in this capacity. Building work began in October 2013 and the subsea cable laying began in August 2014.
In July 2015 the complexity and innovation of the project was recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering when Atkins was awarded the Major Project award. This award recognises the contribution of a team of engineers, based in the UK, who have delivered a major engineering project that has had a substantial impact on society.
This project offers great opportunities to improve the economy and quality of life for the remote communities of the Highlands and Islands. Citizens will benefit from improved connectivity, with IP technology enabling fast, reliable video links that can also deliver more public services such as health, social care and education to rural areas in new ways using superfast broadband technology.
Access to quickly downloadable educational resources from the internet will also help to improve residents’ and students’ knowledge.
Businesses in the region will enjoy operational savings due to faster file retrieval and transfer and easier document sharing with colleagues and clients. Access to cloud computing services will ensure companies are only using the server space they need, cutting both energy and carbon emissions.
Businesses will also gain access to new markets worldwide and will be able to have regular face-to-face contact with those clients. Fast and easy access also creates flexible working opportunities, allowing people to work from home, thereby helping to improve quality of life.