THE COUNCIL is to meet with major telecommunications companies later this autumn in the hope of finding a solution which will lead to faster broadband connections for islanders.
A fibre optic cable link laid from Faroe to Shetland by Faroese Telecom beached in Maywick earlier this year, but although BT have leased capacity on the cable they have no plans to use it before they roll out their 21-CN upgrade, a plan for faster broadband speed for domestic users.
BT has already begun investing in 21-CN elsewhere in the UK but Shetland is unlikely to be upgraded until around four years’ time, meaning the SIC’s economic development unit is seeking an interim solution to allow Shetlanders to benefit before 2012.
The council has identified a “pressing need and desire” to improve broadband coverage, particularly in some of Shetland’s outlying communities, and is organising a meeting between the major telecommunications companies, the Scottish government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in an attempt to barter a solution. The meeting is due to take place in Glasgow in early October.
SIC development officer Marvin Smith said he was “hopeful” that a solution could be found to allow a connection between the cable station at Maywick and the existing network in Shetland to be made.
“We’re getting all the interested parties together around the table to see what we can do,” he said.
“We did a similar thing in Copenhagen a couple of years ago for the cable itself and that proved to be quite productive. BT have leased capacity but they’re not actually using it, and there’s capacity that could be used by other telecoms companies as well, so we’re basically [looking to] sit around the table, find out what everybody has got. Once they start speaking together that’s when things start to happen.”
Although most exchanges in Shetland can provide ADSL (full broadband), there are 11 exchanges which can only provide a limited service.
In a report to the council’s development committee last week, Mr Smith wrote that it was vital to achieve full connectivity to the fibre optic cable in order to allow Shetland to develop IT businesses and avoid falling behind the rest of the UK.