Aberdeenshire Council recognises the importance of high quality digital connectivity to its citizens and has been at the forefront of efforts to improve infrastructure and services to businesses and residents in the area.
Significant increases in the number of premises able to access superfast broadband (24 Mbps) have been seen since April 2014, when the first publicly funded upgrades delivered by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme became operational.
The council contributed £16million to the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme which between April 2014 and March 2016 delivered fibre infrastructure which has enabled over 60,000 homes in Aberdeenshire to access superfast broadband for the first time. With the Programme now complete, the outcome for Aberdeenshire was an uplift of over 80,000 premises able to access fibre enabled broadband for the first time. Find out the service situation at your location.
Some further upgrades funded by Gainshare (a reinvestment in the programme by BT consequent to uptake exceeding pre determined targets) will continue to be delivered into the early part of 2019, but the number of premises involved is relatively small in relation to those upgraded by the main programme and the final outcome for Aberdeenshire is likely to be around 89% coverage compared to a national average of over 95%.
The challenge of delivering fibre broadband in Aberdeenshire is significant as the area has around twice the national average of Exchange Only (EO) lines, which are more expensive to upgrade. The national average is 22%, Aberdeenshire’s figure is over 45%, representing over 50,000 homes. 25% of new fibre optic cable built in the programme area was installed in Aberdeenshire – an indication of the scale of the challenge and investment involved.
The Scottish Government has announced a successor programme (R100), which will offer a 30 Mbps connection to 100% of premises in Scotland. R100 should address those premises not covered by the earlier DSSB programme and is likely to deploy a mix of technologies as it’s unlikely that the budget for R100 will be sufficient to fund fixed links to every eligible site. R100 is expected to start delivering upgraded connections in 2020, subject to contracts being agreed in early 2019.
If you have a poor connection speed (lower than 2 Mbps) and don’t wish to wait for R100, you can apply for a Connection Voucher which provides a contribution of up to £350 towards the capital costs of a satellite installation or towards equipment needed to access any wireless service which may operate in your area.
Within the City Region Deal, Aberdeenshire Council is working to deliver ultrafast connectivity to key industrial estates. The objective is to see infrastructure and services in place which will offer affordable high band width gigabit symmetrical up/download speed services to SMEs.
The council has also lobbied for changes in mobile phone licensing so that coverage criteria is based on geographical area rather than population, for a waiver on commercial rates for masts and aerials in sparsely populated areas and for fixed way-leave payments to enable new mast sites to be developed more readily.
The council lobbied against the proposed "right to roam" provisions advanced by the UK government on the grounds that these would not create any additional infrastructure to improve coverage and services.
The Mobile Network Operators also opposed the "right to roam" proposals and reached agreement with the Government on a number of fronts which will greatly benefit coverage and services in Aberdeenshire by the end of 2017.
- a combines spend across the UK of £5bn on new infrastructure to improve coverage and services
- around 40 new masts in Aberdeenshire, servicing the 4 major network operators (Vodafone, O2, EE and Three), to improve geographical coverage and services offered
- signal strength to be measured inside rather than outside buildings
- commitments by all the mobile operators to guarantee voice and text coverage over 90% of the UK’s land area by the end of 2017
- 4G services to be available to 95% of the population by the end of 2017
In 2018, OFCOM announced that the network operators had met their obligations but conceded that Scotland still lags England in terms of coverage. One witness to the Scottish Affairs Committee, which took evidence in Aberdeen during 2017, stated that only 12% of Scotland’s land area had 4G coverage from all four network operators. Find out the situation at your address.
Scottish Futures Trust is working with stakeholders to address mobile not spots through the construction of publicly funded common user masts.
Roddy Matheson, Service Manager (Industry Sectors)