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BT cables up Scottish Islands as Finland begins digging to Germany

As one undersea broadband project ends, another begins.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

BT yesterday laid the last of 250 miles of undersea cable in preparation for a fibre rollout across the Scottish Islands. At the same time, Finland is preparing to kick off its own €100m undersea cable to Germany to bypass Sweden.

BT's newly-completed undersea cable has been laid across a "record-breaking" 20 seabed crossings, which will support the telco's £146m broadband network currently being rolled out to the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The subsea project counts for £26.9m of the cost and will ultimately improve services that will be available in 150,000 premises in the region.

The undersea cables and terrestrial network in the Highlands and Islands are one of two components of the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, which aims to deliver fibre broadband access to around 85 percent of premises in Scotland by the end of 2015 and 95 percent by the end of 2017.

BT is contracted to make fibre available to 84 percent of premises in the region by 2016.

The next phase of work will link subsea connections together, and data traffic is expected to begin flowing through them in spring next year with fibre broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps.

Undersea cabling work has been carried out for BT by French firm Orange Marine, while terrestrial network connections were undertaken by A-2-Sea Solutions.

The Highlands and Islands project has run alongside another fibre rollout to 750,000 premises in the rest of Scotland, with funding from the Scottish government, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and BT.

In total, over 500 miles of fibre backbone is being laid for the Highlands and Islands project, which will complement BT's existing fibre network.

Further north, Finland has taken a key step in its plan to bypass Swedish data networks via an undersea cable from Helsinki to the Rostock-Ribnitz area in northern Germany.

The Finnish government earlier this year granted funding for the project, playing up the nation's prospects to become a European datacentre hub that provided a 'safe harbour' for information. Ultimately, Finland hopes to attract more investments of the type Google has made in its Hamina-based datacentre near the southern-most border between Finland and Russia.

The new submarine cable will end Finland's reliance on data links in Sweden to connect with the rest of the world. Currently, transmissions to Finland occur via the Öresund bridge connecting Denmark to southern Sweden.

The Finnish government-owned venture Cinia Group (previously Corenet) has teamed up with Alcatel-Lucent to roll out the submarine cable and described it as "the first direct cable link between the Nordic region and continental Europe".

Finland hoped the 1,100km cable to Germany would be ready by 2015, but according to an announcement by Alcatel Lucent this week, it is expected to be completed in early 2016.

Dubbed Sea Lion, the cable will have capacity of 15Tbps and will connect to Finland's fibre network, which runs along is railroads.

"We are pleased to begin our cooperation with Alcatel-Lucent on this significant project for Finland, contributing to strengthen its position as a leading country in data centre investments, as well as promoting innovation and increased connectivity to a growth path for the Finnish and European economy," Jukka-Pekka Joensuu, executive vice president of the Cinia Group, said.

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