How are we building the network?
Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) is the main fibre technology currently used for the Scottish network. For most premises, this means running fibre-optic cables throughout the network, right up to those green cabinets you often see on the roadside. Existing copper wires then connect homes and businesses to the cabinet. This technique offers download speeds of up to 80Mbps, and upload speeds up to 20Mbps.
On paper, that sounds simple. But in practice there are countless factors to consider so we can deliver on our promises and ambitious timelines. Sometimes, challenges only become clear when engineers arrive on site to lay cables and connect cabinets, and this means we can’t always tell you exactly when you can order faster broadband. However, you can get an idea of timescales on our interactive map, and in our stage-by-stage guide, below.
For other premises, FTTC technology is not feasible. Depending on the engineering circumstances this means that Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology will be used as an alternative.
What is Fibre to the Premises?
Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) is a pure fibre broadband connection that runs all the way from your local exchange right to your home or business. Where available, the local network is able to support download speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (or one Gigabit) download and 220 Mbps upload.
FTTP requires a little more work for the internet service providers and Openreach to set up than other forms of broadband, so it can take longer.
Depending on your premises you will be connected to the network and have your service delivered either by underground or overhead cables running back to the exchange.
There are more variables involved with FTTP than with a traditional cabinet (FTTC). These can include factors such as local topology and geography, planning requirements, the existing engineering infrastructure and the availability of suitable technologies to provide a fibre service. As it is pure fibre and does not involve copper telephone wires, FTTP is faster than FTTC and can deliver speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (or one Gigabit) download and 220 Mbps upload.
The internet service providers (ISPs) will offer different packages with different speeds so remember to shop around and find the deal which is right for you.
Connecting Scotland to Fibre Broadband, stage by stage
Here’s an example of the journey DSSB and its partners took throughout the programme, to ensure we could connect homes and businesses to fibre broadband with speeds of at least 24Mbps. Some stages may differ depending on the type of technology solution used.
Not In Scope
Unfortunately, we will not reach your premises through the DSSB programme, but you will be included in successor programmes which are committed to Reaching 100% of premises in Scotland. In the meantime, there are some alternative solutions you can look at which may improve your broadband speeds until superfast is available at your address. You can find more about the reasons why DSSB can't reach all premises here.
You're in scope for fibre broadband plans but we haven't started work yet. Plans may be part of the Digital Scotland programme or through a commercial programme. When work begins you will move into the “Design” Phase of the journey.
The overall Openreach network plan is based on everything that’s up poles and down holes, and on the street.
DESIGN (typically takes 12 months from this stage to being able to place an order).
The first step in delivering to a particular location is to carry out initial planning based on Openreach network records. At the end of this design process, we’ll have a blueprint in place for delivering fibre to your area.
FIELD SURVEY (typically takes 9 months from this stage to being able to place an order)
- We’ll now take the blueprints from the design stage to your area, and make sure that what looks good on paper works in the real world. We do this by carrying out an on-site physical survey to check the situation on the ground and work out where we can build the fibre cabinet, and lay the fibre cables. Our surveyor needs to check that there’s sufficient space alongside all the existing utilities underground for our new wires, and whether the street cabinet is large enough for a fibre upgrade or needs replacing. We’ll also need to determine whether we’ll need to close any roads to install fibre and, if so, apply to the local authority for road traffic management, traffic lights etc. We’ll liaise closely with your local authority to ensure fibre is installed safely and with the minimum of disruption to your community.
- What happens during the field survey The position of the existing green copper cabinet is identified (sometimes the plans are out of date or the cabinet is hidden by shrubbery!)
- The surveyor looks for a suitable place to site the new fibre cabinet. There are restrictions as to where the new cabinet can be placed, just some of the factors that need to be taken into account include:
- The distance between the existing copper cabinet and the new fibre cabinet – for performance reasons they need to be located as close to each other as possible
- Access to a suitable power supply – unlike the copper cabinet, the fibre cabinet requires a power supply, which needs to be as close as possible to minimise costs
- Pedestrian access – it is important that the fibre cabinet does not impinge on a footpath, a minimum of 1.2 metres has to be left between the front of the cabinet and the edge of the footpath to allow pedestrians to pass safely
- Road users – it is important that the fibre cabinet does not affect the view of motorists especially if it needs to be placed near a road junction
- Land ownership – we need to identify who owns the land around the existing copper cabinet. It could be that we have to seek permission from the landowner to build the infrastructure on their land (known as a wayleave)
- Underground structures – it is essential to know what other utilities may be in the area such as gas pipes or water mains. These will need to be taken into account when digging to install the new ducting
- Safety – there is a need to ensure that the fibre cabinet is built in such a way so not to provide a security risk for any nearby property, for example, could it be used as a means of climbing over a wall
- Condition of existing infrastructure – it is important to note the size and condition of the existing copper cabinet. It could be that the copper cabinet itself is too small to house the extra equipment needed and therefore it will need to be changed for a larger one.
As you can see, the surveying of the existing, and planning for the new, infrastructure is a vital stage in the whole process.
Assuming that we don’t encounter any major problems, the completed survey is returned to Openreach network planning. It can then be planned and sent to the on-the-ground installation team. At this stage we receive the actual power design from the power company and align traffic management, power connection and fibre cabinet build dates.
BUILD (typically it takes about 5 months from this stage to being able to place an order)
At this point we’re ready to start the physical work in your community. We’ll be installing the new fibre cabinet and bringing fibre cable from your local telephone exchange to your area. You might see our teams working in the footway boxes along your street as they bring the fibre cable through the underground ducts or overhead on telephone poles.
We’ll also be putting the fibre cabinet in position which might cause a bit of disruption with traffic diversion and closed pavements, we’ll do our best to reduce this. Throughout the build phase we continue to work closely with the power companies and local authorities to reduce delays and keep disruption to a minimum.
CONNECT (typically it takes about 4 months from this stage to being able to place an order)
We’re now connecting the power and fibre cables to the brand new fibre cabinet in your area. We need to test and certify the power connection is working properly. The existing copper and new fibre cabinets have to be connected to each other by underground copper cables. Once done the physical build is now complete and we shouldn’t need to carry out any further work in your local area.
ACTIVATE (typically this takes place about a month before you will be able to place an order)
We're performing our final quality and safety checks in your area, and updating our network records. We'll also let service providers know that fibre connections are available in your area.
The decision to offer services will be down to each individual internet service provider according to their business model and is outside the control of Digital Scotland.
Any service provider can use the fibre infrastructure to provide you with internet services. You do need to place and order with a service provider to get a faster connection - it doesn't just happen automatically.
Great news, you can order a fibre broadband service! To find out what options are available to you, speak to your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP) about the services they offer as upgrade isn’t automatic