PAUL Coffey, CTO at Clarus Networks Group, a Scottish connectivity specialist, has commented on the 2023 Local Digital Index’s findings about Scotland’s digital infrastructure, particularly around low levels of connectivity in the Highlands and Islands.
“One of the main advancements highlighted for Scotland is digital infrastructure, which is encouraging as we know will lead to fostering innovation and growth across our region. However, with less than one quarter of premises in the Highlands and Islands having access to a fast gigabit broadband connection, it’s arguably time to focus efforts on accelerating connection in these areas.
“The UK Government has an ambition to get gigabit broadband to at least 85% of premises by 2025. It would be wonderful to achieve this for Scotand. However, it’s now imperative we focus on the most appropriate technology and speed for each location, whether that be fibre, low earth orbit (LEO) satellites or fixed wireless access (FWA) to supply high speed internet. Working with the Government, Clarus trialled using LEO satellite internet on the Shetland Islands, and we’ve had untold success connecting many remote businesses to enable them to run their primary communications over satellite.
“The technology is there, but right now, the biggest challenge to support a rural and remote rollout is the business model. We know commercial schemes aren’t feasible in these areas, we need to overhaul public schemes to allow suppliers more flexibility, and adapt voucher schemes to meet the needs of installation and ongoing operational costs. For example, the voucher scheme is designed to support installation costs and can’t be used towards monthly ongoing costs. It’s time for industry and the Government to come together to develop a new business model for connection.
“The transformative potential of digital is especially significant for remote communities – connecting families and businesses to new opportunities. With advances in wireless and satellite technology, we cannot continue to use remote locations as an excuse for poor connectivity.”
Paul Coffey has extensive experience as a digital business leader and wireless connectivity specialist, previously serving as CEO of the Scotland 5G Centre, a national centre dedicated to the uptake of advanced connectivity in Scotland.