A TELECOMS minnow has its sights set on stepping into the breach to connect parts of rural Scotland left out of the R100 programme after demonstrating its capability on a Scottish island.

Broadway Partners, set up by Michael Armitage, linked homes and firms on Arran and is now planning to launch a wider Scottish push with hybrid mobile and fibre technologies.

In the second part of our special series on connectivity, the founder, who has worked with the Scotland 5G Centre and University of Strathclyde’s department of electronic and electrical engineering specialists, says his company is seeking to employ rural connectivity methods already rolled out in Wales.

He claims that this could vastly reduce the five-year wait some are now facing for access to adequate connectivity.

HeraldScotland: Special Series Day Two: R100 delays bring ‘open season’ for smaller players in digital gameSpecial Series Day Two: R100 delays bring ‘open season’ for smaller players in digital game

His company first started linking around 500 homes and businesses, effectively connecting around 1,000 residents, on Arran in 2016 through shared spectrum technology initially and is now upgrading with fibre in a project expected to take around a year.

Following on from our special series last year, a hybrid of mobile and fibre technologies is increasingly expected to be favoured to link up communities from the superfast network – 30 megabits per second – to ultrafast, which is 100mbps, and levels of 1,000mbps, or one gigabit.

HeraldScotland: Preparatory work being done on ArranPreparatory work being done on Arran

“We are about to start building our first fibre networks at Blackwaterfoot and Shiskine and we will be covering existing wireless footprint replacing it with fibre,” Ayr-born Mr Armitage said. “So we will be delivering fibre to Arran over the course of the next 12-18 months.

“That is overtaking the R100 programme.”

He said: “Having established our basic credibility in Arran and extended that to Loch Ness, Perth and Kinross and Stirlingshire, we feel we have a legitimate case to make. We are making the case to local authorities and the Scottish Government that there is a deliverable model that can realistically deliver networks to 100% of the population without breaking the bank. So it is an exciting prospect.”

READ MORE: Anger over Scottish Government connectivity funding hold-ups

The Scottish Government revealed last month that while across Scotland there is 95 per cent coverage under the R100 – Reaching 100% programme, some rural areas face a delay of five years beyond the promised 2021.

Mr Armitage, whose firm is registered in Liverpool and has a base in Glasgow, said: “There are tens of thousands of premises that will miss out on the R100 programme and that is completely open season for small companies like us to go for.

“Equally, because there is that five year timescale, the Scottish voucher rules allow us to go for those that won’t be delivering in the near term.”

Vouchers of £400 and £5,000 are available to those outwith the R100 target. “If premises are earmarked for 2023-26 delivery we can quite legitimately use any voucher scheme.”

The firm is running a pilot research exercise on behalf of Scotland 5G Centre to look at models to support rural delivery of 5G.

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“That will, I hope, help join up the dots between the mobile strategy which tends to be in one silo and the fibre strategy in another silo.

“It is joining the dots in the sense that you can’t really expect to get anything like 5G or even good 4G coverage in rural areas unless you’ve got the fibre connectivity and the backhaul to take the signal out of the glen, back to the data centre in Glasgow or Edinburgh.”

READ MORE: Glasgow gets closer to gigabit ambitions

BT won all three R100 contracts totalling £600 million, which Openreach will deliver, but it says full fibre needs a “joined-up industry effort”. It said it was on Arran since 2015 including connecting 300 "hard-to-reach" premises.

Robert Thorburn, of Openreach Scotland, said: “No company is more ambitious when it comes to building the infrastructure that will drive Scotland’s digital future, but it is not an overnight fix.

“You have to invest hundreds of millions of pounds, if not billions, in network infrastructure to reach as many people as possible.

“Clearly we are on a journey and it’s going to take a bit of time to get where we need to be. By 2030, Scotland will look completely different from a technical and functioning point of view. We should be proud of where we’re getting to – I’m really excited for the future.”

Tomorrow: Does city living guarantee good connectivity?