World class connectivity

Superfast, Fibre and High Speed are all names used for the next generation of broadband, also sometimes referred to as “faster broadband” or “next generation broadband”. It differs from basic broadband in that it is much faster in terms of the data it can transfer. So, if you have high speed broadband in your business or home, it’s much easier to perform tasks that involve a lot of data – like transferring large files or downloading a film.

As recently as 2013, only 52% of premises in Scotland could access high speed broadband. Commercial providers’ projections showed that by the end of 2017, they planned to have rolled out the technology to 66% of Scottish premises. This meant that 34% of Scottish premises would still be unable to access and benefit from this new technology.

As a result of these findings, in 2014 the £410 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme was launched to install the infrastructure required to bring faster speeds to as many people as possible, in the areas which weren’t going to be covered by the commercial roll out of fibre broadband. The programme is a key part of the Scottish Government’s plans to ensure that Scotland is a world class digital nation by 2020, The level of funding invested in the DSSB programme means that by the end of March 2018, 95% of homes and businesses across Scotland will be able to connect.

The DSSB rollout consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the rest of Scotland. Funding partners include the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, BT, the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund.

The DSSB programme is one of the most ambitious infrastructure programmes in Europe and it’s pleasing to see that there are a significant number of women in key roles right across the programme from deployment and project management to marketing, communications and legal. In fact, the person at the helm is a woman.

Sara Budge, Programme Director for the DSSB rollout explains the challenges: “When planning a rollout on this scale you need to take into account many factors including geography, planning requirements, the existing engineering infrastructure, getting electricity to the new roadside cabinets and even the weather and local nature.“

Despite these challenges the programme is currently running ahead of schedule. It’s now two years since the first DSSB funded fibre cabinet went live and to date a further 580,000 premises are now connected thanks to the Digital Scotland rollout, with more to follow. This, together with the commercial rollout means, that already 85% of homes and businesses in Scotland are able to receive fibre broadband (according to Ofcom’s Connected Nations report.)

The rollout is only half the story however, as Sara Budge explains, “As it’s been predicted that the economy should receive a £20 benefit for every £1 invested in the programme, having such significant level of connection undoubtedly presents a fantastic opportunity for the future of Scotland and its economy. It’s vital that we encourage as many people as possible to get on board with this technology so that all the advantages – social, educational and economic – come to fruition. In order to reap these benefits, local people need to contact their internet service provider to switch to superfast broadband, as upgrades over to the new network are not automatic.”

The faster upload and download speeds fibre broadband brings is improving the quality of online experiences and supporting exciting new developments in internet services across the country. At home everyone can be online at the same time without screens freezing or quality being compromised, which is especially important if people want to run a business or work from home. Businesses can: take advantage of the latest business software through cloud computing, back up data instantly, work locally and compete globally through an improved online presence, use video conferencing and work flexibly from any location.

Sara Budge, Programme Director for DSSB explains, “The faster speeds fibre broadband brings can be completely transformational for SMEs. It’s quite clear from a number of surveys that once these businesses get online, their potential to increase sales by over 50 per cent can happen almost overnight. In order to realise the socio–economic benefits fibre broadband offers, it’s important that people get on board as soon as the service becomes available.”

One Scottish business woman who is already benefitting is Val Lawrence. Val says “Since I started up my Stella and Dot operation, business has skyrocketed. I love the work and feel I have really found my niche. I am now a director of the company and I have a team of 126 women working for me across Scotland. So business is going brilliantly but until I had a fibre broadband connection, it was often impossible to work from home as the previous broadband connection was so slow – only 1Mbps. I would have to go into town and use a WiFi hotspot in a cafe. This was really frustrating as so much valuable time got wasted.”

Val Lawrence Stella Dot

Val Lawrence

Increased sales revenues
“Having a fibre broadband connection is absolutely fantastic. We can now rely on broadband speeds of around 35 Mbps, so now I can make full use of social media, which is my main selling tool. I can upload photos of the product line to Facebook instantaneously whereas it took ages before. I can also use video on social media for the first time. I could not use video at all before, as it would have taken several hours to upload to Facebook. Now I can upload videos in seconds. I uploaded a video of our new pieces last night and I have orders already this morning. As jewellery is such a visual product, it makes a huge difference to the business to be able to show photos and videos easily. This is having a direct impact on sales revenue and will really help me grow the business.

Faster response to enquiries
“Another area where fibre broadband is directly improving sales revenue is that it is now so much faster for me to follow up on enquiries. This is all done by email. In the past, the internet connection would often drop out and so it would take ages to follow up on all leads, meaning that some may not have been followed up at all, or at least not within the ideal time frame. Now that I can follow up promptly, this is leading to many more sales.

Improved communications
“Fibre broadband is also making communications easier. I regularly speak to my boss in the United States on FaceTime and the quality of the connection is sharper with the superfast fibre connection. I also have weekly conference calls with my team. In future, we should be able to make use of FaceTime or Skype for these, which will save a considerable amount of money and also make it easier to develop team spirit and camaraderie through face to face communications.

Easier to work from home
“Even on an everyday level, fibre broadband is making it loads easier to run my business effectively from home. For example, I back up all my data in the cloud and this all happens instantly now. In general, fibre broadband is helping create a calmer, more efficient working environment and it means that a business model such as Stella and Dot’s, which relies on social media for promotion, can really take off and flourish.” Budget constraints and technical challenges mean around 5% of Scotland will not be part of DSSB programme’s rollout of fibre broadband. However, one initiative that will help deliver improved broadband connectivity, including superfast broadband, to the final 5% is Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) which works with remote communities to deliver local broadband projects.

Visit www.scotlandsuperfast.com to check if fibre broadband is available in your area, and read more about the benefits and register for updates.

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