BT upgrades its Scottish cables -

BT has awarded three firms a $36.8 million contract for a subsea cabling project.

The project is part of a plan to deliver fibre broadband to the Highlands and Islands and it will see  vessels lay twenty fiber optic submarine cables in a precise operation during May to October 2014.

It will eventually link communities from Kintyre to Orkney as part of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise plan to bring fibre broadband to communities across the north of Scotland.

Global Marine Systems will conduct detailed marine route surveys and supply the cables and Orange Marine has been contracted to lay around 400 kilometres of subsea cables, while A-1-Sea Solutions has been chosen to work onshore connecting the cable's to BT's terrestrial network.

The longest cable will run for nearly 79 kilometres under the Minch from Ullapool to Stornoway, with the Western Isles also getting a second link stretching more than 57 kilometres between Carnan on South Uist, and Dunvegan on Skye.

The subsea work will be carried out by Orange Marine's cable ship Rene Descartes using the ship's submersible plough and remotely operated vehicles to bury the double armoured cable in the seabed where seabed sediments allow. The cableship will be backed up by dive support vessels, tugs and a shallow water-laying vessel.

The broadband project is being led by HEI and delivered by BT. It is expected to provide broadband access to 84 percent of Highlands and Islands homes and businesses by the end of 2016.

BT plans to deploy widespread fibre to the cabinet, offering broadband speeds up to 800 Mbps and some Fibre to the Premises.