Lerwick has been switched on to faster broadband after telecoms company BT went live with its service through Shetland’s council-sponsored fibre-optic cable.
BT said its £8 million transmission link from the Northern Isles to Inverness meant download speeds of up to 20 megabits per second for domestic customers, which is more than double the speed the firm has offered previously.
The link also brings a faster and cheaper global ethernet network for businesses and public sector organisations, offering guaranteed connections of up to 10 gigabits per second.
The company said individual internet service providers seeking to move to the faster service would move their customers during January, February and March.
BT said all broadband users in Shetland would benefit from a more resilient service as well as the faster speeds to and from Lerwick. However, it intends keeping the unreliable microwave radio link to Shetland as a back-up for use in the event of a failure of the new system.
BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said it was “a great, early Christmas present for Lerwick” and towns on the mainland which can connect in. Connecting the fibre link had only been planned for early in the New Year.
Mr Dick said: “BT’s continuing commitment to the Highlands and Islands is evident through the investment of £8 million in the new, north fibre route and I’m delighted that we’ve joined up the links in the chain significantly ahead of schedule.
“The arrival of ethernet in Lerwick will deliver a huge boost for local businesses and public sector organisations and I’m certain it will deliver big benefits to the local economy.”
The announcement of an early connection was welcomed by Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael. He said: “Clearly there is a long way to go before everyone in Orkney and Shetland gets the sort of connection speeds enjoyed by people in other areas of the country but this is good news for the Isles.
“It is people in areas like Orkney and Shetland who stand to benefit the most from improvements in digital services but all too often we have been at the back of the queue when new technologies are being rolled out.”