Pioneering Isles of Scilly cable project set to deliver superfast broadband speeds to islanders

Cable ship diverts subsea cable between UK and Spain to Isles of Scilly which will make them one of “the best connected islands in the world”

Superfast reaches the Isles of Scilly

One of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in the UK to bring superfast broadband to a remote community will reach an important milestone tomorrow (Wednesday July 23).

A major month-long operation is currently under way to divert a fibre optic cable between the UK and Spain to the Isles of Scilly in a pioneering scheme to give the islanders much faster fibre broadband.

The 939 kilometre cable between Porthcurno, Cornwall, and Santander, Spain, has remained unused on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean since it was taken out of service in 2006 after 11 years of handling high-speed international communications.

The 12,184 tonne cable ship Resolute has cut the cable at two points in the Atlantic - about 100 kilometres and 15 kilometres off Lands End - and diverted a section to the Isles of Scilly. Tomorrow the 140 metre-long ship will be stationed off Porthcressa Beach on the main island, St Mary’s, whilst the cable is pulled ashore and linked to the local network on Scilly. It is expected that the islanders will be able to order high-speed fibre broadband before the end of the year.

The pioneering project is part of the £132 million[1] Superfast Cornwall initiative between the European Regional Development Fund, BT and Cornwall Council, which plans to make fibre broadband available to 95 per cent of homes and premises on Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of 2014. The private and public sector partnership has already built a network serving 90 per cent of Cornish premises.

Until now, the 2,200 residents of the Isles of Scilly – located 28 miles off the South West tip of Cornwall – have relied upon a broadband service provided by a radio link between Lands End and the islands. People on all five of Scilly’s inhabited islands, famous for their remote Atlantic location and as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), are expected to benefit from the latest investment.

Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for Cornwall Development Company, the economic development company of Cornwall Council, said: “The people of the Isles of Scilly, who have long been known for their spirit of innovation, are determined to make the most of this exciting technology. Superfast broadband will provide a major boost for local businesses and offer the kind of online opportunities, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Businesses on Scilly might be located in one of the most remote – and beautiful – parts of the UK, but they will be right at the centre of the superfast broadband revolution in some of the best connected islands in the world.”

Jeremy Steventon-Barnes, Superfast Cornwall operations director for BT, said: “Bringing superfast broadband to the Isles of Scilly is an immensely challenging project for a wide range of engineering and environmental reasons, and a big team from across BT is working with our public sector partners to make it happen. The fact that we have been able to make use of an existing cable makes a great deal of sense from an environmental and cost point of view.

“The project fits perfectly with BT and Superfast Cornwall’s strong reputation for innovation and environmental awareness. It emphasises the leadership role that the Superfast Cornwall partnership is playing in showing how superfast broadband and its benefits can be taken to remote places in a way which would have been unimaginable in the quite recent past. It also shows the necessity of the public and private sectors working together to bring superfast broadband to more challenging locations.”

Amanda Martin, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: "Superfast Broadband will create exciting opportunities for new and existing businesses. Its installation will also help our islands become more economically viable and provide benefits for future generations.”


[1] The exact amount is dependent on demand for fibre broadband from local businesses and could be lower than £132 million.

For further information

Enquiries about this news release should be made to the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660 or Cornwall Development Company on 01209 311104.  All news releases can be accessed at:

Photography/Video – will be available from the BT Newsroom on 0207 356 5369 or [email protected]

For further information on the Superfast Cornwall programme visit

Did you know?

The first attempt to run a cable from the UK mainland to the Isles of Scilly took place in 1869 when entrepreneurs attempted to take advantage of Government plans for the Post Office to take over telegraph companies. The proposed financial arrangements were very favourable to the telegraph companies and some entrepreneurs established companies in a bid to cash in. The cable ship went off course and found itself five miles south of the Isles of Scilly with the cable fully extended. The cable was deliberately cut and, unknown to Scilly islanders, the cable ship steamed triumphantly into Scilly towing just a small section of the cable. Tests were then allegedly faked to make it appear as if the cable was working correctly. The following year another cable was laid to Scilly – and this one did provide a working service.

Notes to Editors

Further information about next generation broadband is available from

About the Convergence Programme

The Superfast Cornwall programme is part financed by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Convergence European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit

Project Investment:

ERDF Convergence investment: Up to £53.5 million
BT Investment: Up to £78.5 million
TOTAL: Up to £132 million
For more information visit

About Cornwall Development Company

Cornwall Development Company Ltd is the arms length economic development company for Cornwall Council. Further information is available at

About Openreach

Openreach is responsible for the last mile of the UK access network – the copper wires and fibre connecting homes and businesses to their local telephone exchanges.  Openreach provides communications providers with services and products associated with that network.

About BT

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of five lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

For the year ended 31 March 2014, BT Group’s reported revenue was £18,287mwith reported profit before taxation of £2,312m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. 

For more information, visit

Thursday 24 July 2014