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Surveys carried out to map routes for cables that will bring faster broadband to Scottish islands

The Fugro Venturer.
The Fugro Venturer.

Initial offshore fieldwork for a project to bring faster broadband to the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland is nearing completion.

Air and sea surveys that will help determine routes for 16 new fibre optic cables for the islands were carried out by Fugro as part of a multi -disciplinary contract for Global Marine

The work is part of the Scottish Government’s “Reaching 100%” (R100) programme.

Delivered by Openreach, on behalf of BT, the project ultimately aims to make superfast broadband available across the country.

Fugro used its rapid airborne multibeam mapping Ssystem (RAMMS) technology to gather data on cable landing sites in nearshore areas considered too hazardous, even for a small vessel.

At sea, three specialist survey vessels from Fugro’s fleet performed geophysical and geotechnical surveys of the nearshore and deepwater areas, including 31 landing sites across the island network.

The project also comprises unidentified ordnance (UXO) hazard surveys, sub-bottom data collection, and land-based sediment sampling.

‘First step’ in faster connectivity for islanders

Clive Downing, the Scottish Government’s R100 programme director, said: “Digital connectivity has proven to be vital throughout the pandemic and this is something that will make a huge difference to both residents and businesses as we continue to work, learn and access public services remotely.

“Global Marine and Fugro have successfully mapped out the subsea routes through complex underwater and overhead surveys and this work is the first step in connecting islanders to faster broadband as part of the Scottish Government’s R100 programme for the North Lot contract area.”

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s partnership director for Scotland, added: “The subsea element of the R100 build is both complex and sensitive.

“That’s why we’re so pleased to be working with industry specialists Fugro and Global Marine who are using innovation and technology – in the air, on land and at sea – to gather the in-depth knowledge we need to design the full fibre network to more islands.”

Bruce Neilson-Watts, managing director of Global Marine said: “We are pleased that this initial stage of the project is almost complete.

“The diverse elements of the subsea survey data will combine together to give a rich and detailed picture of the seabed environment and shallow soils regime, providing essential information to deliver this high-profile project safely and effectively for the long-term benefit of many of Scotland’s residents.”

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