Full-fibre infrastructure firm Neos Networks is celebrating a milestone halfway point in its £10.5 million mission to deliver faster broadband for public sector services in Aberdeenshire.
The company has brought another 71 sites, including schools, libraries, swimming pools and healthcare facilities, online in the second and third phases of a project being paid for by the £250m Scottish and UK Government-funded Aberdeen City Region Deal (ACRD).
It takes the total number of public sector sites upgraded by the scheme – aimed at boosting economic activity and, ultimately, quality of life in the region – to 93.
We are well on track to complete the rest of the project on time and on budget despite all work having been completed during the pandemic.”
Lorna Ormiston, programme director, Neos Networks
A total of 95 miles of new underground fibre cable has been laid to date, heading towards the target of nearly 171 miles.
The next phase of the Dark Fibre project is under way and due for completion by September. All 190 public sites covered by the scheme will be hooked up to “ultra-fast” broadband connectivity – speeds of up to one gigabit per second – by March 2022.
Awarded by Aberdeenshire Council, the contract is expected to also deliver benefits to Aberdeen City Council and NHS Grampian as end users of the faster full-fibre network.
Lorna Ormiston, programme director for Reading and Perth-based Neos, said: “We’re excited and pleased with the significant and timely progress we are making on the Aberdeenshire full-fibre network project, helping to underpin Scotland’s digital ambitions and boost economic activity in the area.
“I’m very proud of the Aberdeenshire team to have made such substantial progress this year, despite challenging circumstances, including flooding in February after heavy rain and snow.
“We are well on track to complete the rest of the project on time and on budget despite all work having been completed during the pandemic.”
Scotland Office Minister Iain Stewart said: “The past year has shown how essential fast and secure internet connections are for our public services.
“From hospitals to schools, 93 public buildings in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are now benefitting from full-fibre connectivity, thanks to the city region deal.”
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, for the Scottish Government, said: “I’m very pleased to see the progress that’s been made in the roll-out of the full-fibre infrastructure project, improving the connectivity that is required by so many vital local public services.”
Aberdeenshire Council leader and ACRD joint committee chairman Andy Kille said the continued roll-out of fibre across Aberdeenshire was “tremendously welcome”, both from the perspective of city region deal ambitions but also as a “tangible benefit” for the area.
Councillor Killie added: “Connectivity and access to online services are in line with ambitions in the council’s digital strategy, and a fundamental part of the aims of the ACRD. It is reassuring to see that the project is on track for completion next year, despite recent challenges.”
Aberdeen City Council leader Jenny Laing said: “I am delighted that things are progressing so well with the full fibre project. Not only are our corporate sites now able to connect to gigabit-speed connectivity but the additional community benefits provided by Neos Networks have been exceptional.
“Improving connectivity in our city is essential to making our region more attractive, helping people to work from home as well as keep families and friends well-connected.”
Neos said it had responded quickly to change its work schedule after one of the sites was converted into a temporary vaccination centre and moved up the list of priorities.
It added the project had facilitated remote working during the pandemic, with the company also delivering “social value” in the region by supporting five apprenticeships and an equal number of structured work placements, as well as providing upskilling opportunities and 100 hours of staff time commitment to community organisations.
Andy Bell, head of public sector, Neos, said: “As we continue to develop our network, we’ll be looking to replicate our knowledge and learnings from this project across the wider UK market.”