Rum is first Scottish island to get new fibre network

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The Isle of Rum has recently become the first Scottish island and possibly the first island in the UK to receive full fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband.

The project, which has been led by local broadband operator HebNet CIC, has been made possible by three key local organisations supporting and investing in the project.

The project initially started as Mowi – the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon – had a requirement for a high quality network link between its shore-based office and fish farm barges which are separated by around 5.5km of land and sea.

Mowi said: ‘Our long-term commitment to Rum and the other Small Isles where we conduct our business includes partnering in vital projects that help improve the community.

‘This new fibre network will provide all of us – whether working or residing – with the safety of connectivity and the ability to carry out economic activity that matches the speed and reliability of other communities in Scotland.’

HebNet CIC, the wireless broadband operator and experts in delivering rural connections, engaged with Mowi to design a solution for its shore to barge link. It was clear a fibre-optic solution was the best long-term option given the distance and terrain involved.

While designing the link, the Isle of Rum Community Trust (IRCT) was approached by HebNet CIC as there was a possible option to incorporate FTTP as part of the overall project design.

Denis Rixson, of IRCT, said: ‘There was a unique opportunity for us to work with other key stakeholders on Rum that enabled us to deliver FTTP and future-proof the local internet infrastructure on the island.

‘At the same time, we hope Rum can be used as a model for other rural communities with aspirations of delivering their own fibre networks.’

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which manages the island’s nature reserve, was also approached as the design could be widened to include its sites in the village.

Ian Sargent, from SNH, added: ‘We were challenged with providing their staff with a fast, secure and reliable internet connection to one of our remotest office locations in Scotland.

‘After assessing all available options, including testing satellite connectivity for a while, we were delighted with the fibre network proposal by HebNet.

‘The new fibre network allows the Rum National Nature Reserve to be a fully integrated SNH office able to access all network applications, storage, shared telephony with the added benefit of enabling high definition video conferencing functionality for staff to attend meetings virtually. This saves travel time and providing an overall greener solution for our island-based colleagues while allowing them more time based on the island to look after one of Scotland’s premier nature reserves.’

The wider design was drawn up to include all key stakeholders’ requirements and the project got under way in October 2018. In addition to the existing houses and sites in the village being connected, a new housing
development to accommodate Mowi workers and provide affordable houses for IRCT was being planned.

Ian Bolas, from HebNet, said: ‘HebNet was set up eight years ago to provide a medium-term, affordable broadband service to the Small Isles and Knoydart. As time has gone on and we’ve developed our network, the medium-term aspect of our plan has now shifted to a long-term plan.

‘The project on Rum with the key stakeholders there has shown that HebNet can deliver fibre to the premises in the most remote and challenging of locations.’