Scottish islands are one step closer to faster, more reliable broadband for thousands of homes and businesses.
The first of 16 cables is being installed under the seabed surrounding Shetland as part of the £384m Reaching 100% (R100) North contract, delivered by Openreach.
Fifteen islands in the Argyll and Bute council areas, the Highlands, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands are set to receive broadband capable of download speeds of one gigabit per second under the scheme.
Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “This installation work demonstrates our commitment to extending access to faster broadband to all parts of Scotland.
“Once connected, scalable broadband will make it easier for islanders to stay in touch, work remotely and access online services. It will also benefit visitors and promote greater productivity of regional businesses in line with our National Economic Transformation Strategy.
“Scotland has some of the most difficult places in Europe to provide telecommunications infrastructure, but we are committed to providing high-speed fiber access to all premises in the country.
“The laying of submarine cables to 15 islands across the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Shetland and Orkney is a welcome step towards realizing our ambition.”
Fraser Rowberry, Scotland’s Chief Engineer at Openreach, added: “We are delighted to see this gigantic underwater construction going ahead after months of extensive planning. Laying cables on the seabed is incredibly complex, with many environmental, technical and logistical challenges.
“This is the first step in a step change in technology for some of our most remote island communities.
“Residents and visitors will see activity in the waters around Shetland, Orkney and the West Coast as work progresses this summer.
“Work on new landing points on the islands – which will connect the new undersea cables to the wider broadband network – is also progressing.
“Together, these elements form a crucial foundation for future island connectivity.”
Work on the current stage is expected to be completed by September.