SCOTLAND is on the cusp of a new era of superfast connectivity but at a critical juncture over provision.

The country is hurtling towards 5G with Glasgow and Edinburgh increasing connectivity but there are also new plans for rural inclusion at a business and domestic level set to be mooted.

Now, as the debate enters a crucial phase, field leaders and experts have set out key points as the push for countrywide provision gains pace.

Businesses have been buoyed by Glasgow City Council’s digital strategy and have seen huge improvements in connectivity from network operators, but as well as ensuring firms can stay up to speed on new capabilities, they are also calling for better connections for outlying urban areas.


The provision of superfast connectivity above 30mbps is likely to require both infrastructure investment and the creation of new business models, it is claimed.

The Scottish Government’s R100 scheme has faced delays but Openreach still upped provision as far as remote islands like Grimsay and Great Bernera, where it was described as a game-changer, and latest statistics from Think Broadband show 94 per cent of homes and businesses in Scotland can now get a broadband service at speeds of more than 30mbps.

Scotland also has the most advanced Internet of Things (IoT) network in the UK, with Glasgow and Edinburgh at almost full coverage.

READ MORE: Future-proof fibre comes to Scotland

Scott McEwan, chief executive of Boston Networks, the business behind the delivery of Scotland’s IoT network, said he believes the route to 5G connectivity across Scotland will involve a mix of technologies.

He said: “With the layout of Scotland you won’t be able to get fibre everywhere in a certain timeframe so I think we have to be prepared for as advanced a fibre infrastructure as we can but we need to look at wireless as well in certain in-fill areas.

“We are involved in 5G, we are involved in IoT, and there are more things we are looking to connect in an urban and rural environment using wireless technology using fibre back-haul for the more high capacity applications.

“The more fibre we can have out there the better but I think in the meantime we need to look at other technology to bridge the gap.”

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Openreach says the future is full fibre, with domestic demands on downloading and streaming expected to soar, and business needs also burgeoning.

Colin Lees, Openreach’s chief technical and information officer, said business will benefit from Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), allowing a number of workers to access the same type of applications at the same time, or in parallel.

He said: “Small business are constrained with what they can do in parallel, so what FTTP does is remove constraints and allows businesses to do more of what they need to do in parallel. Faster speeds will bring to small and medium businesses services and capability that historically only larger business had access to.”

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is a sense of momentum.

“We now have a digital strategy that has been backed by the political level of the administration, it has the staffing in place to deliver. You can see it is happening and the prize at the end of this could well be a very well thought through vision for what 5G means to the city.”

Angus Millar, Glasgow's digital champion and chair of the Digital Glasgow Board, said: “Supporting the city’s digital infrastructure is a key element of our Digital Glasgow Strategy and vital to the city’s continued economic strength.

"The time is now critical to ensure Glasgow has the digital infrastructure we need to make the city an attractive and competitive place to innovate, invest and live in.

"We are proactively working with investors and service providers and making significant progress to maximise digital connectivity which will support inclusive growth for our people, businesses and city.”

READ MORE: Scotland leads the way as CityFibre helps to build Gigabit Britain

James McClafferty, head of regional development at CityFibre, said full fibre has a role to play in making Scotland greener, adding: “It’s clear that Scotland, and the UK as a whole, needs to upgrade to full fibre as a matter of urgency if we are to maintain our competitive advantage in an increasingly digital world.

“With significant investment committed to date across Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow, our footprint is set to expand even further across Scotland."

He also said: "Evidence shows that supporting the wider adoption and development of digital services in areas such as transportation, energy, computing, construction, building management, health and education could reduce carbon emissions globally by almost a fifth. However, the report argues that only full fibre infrastructure, with near-limitless capacity, is up to the job.

"Copper, which still serves over 90% of premises across the UK, is also significantly more carbon intensive than fibre at all stages of its lifecycle, from its extraction, manufacture and installation, to its operation, maintenance and even decommissioning.

"Meanwhile, full fibre networks are much more energy-efficient, requiring no power to street cabinets, and their services are more reliable, requiring significantly less maintenance.”

Part II tomorrow: Rural connectivity.