BT's partnership with Thus to bring broadband to the Scottish isles kicked into life yesterday as exchanges in Stornoway, Lerwick and Kirkwall were upgraded to receive ADSL services.
BT has leased spare wireless capacity from Thus for backhaul, connecting to BT's network on mainland Scotland to bring broadband to the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.
Bob Downes, director of BT Scotland, said: "Today represents a significant breakthrough for broadband, with ADSL going live in the Scottish islands for the first time."
Around a third of the homes and businesses - 4,700 in Stornoway, 4,300 in Kirkwall and 4,200 in Lerwick - are now able to get broadband.
Dates for the upgrade of other exchanges on the islands will be announced at the end of next month, a BT Scotland spokesman told vnunet.com.
"Most of these exchanges have reached their trigger levels and we hope to upgrade them by the end of 2005. This includes 13 in the Western isles, seven on Orkney and 11 on Shetland," he said.
The news was welcomed by the Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which has provided grants towards the cost of the upgrades.
"Our aim is to get broadband to everyone by the end of 2005 and we would love to meet this goal," said Stuart Robertson, HIE senior telecoms development manager.
But the remaining 57 exchanges dotted around the islands will not be upgraded yet.
BT claimed that they were part of the 400 remaining exchanges in remote areas of Scotland that need "a different approach and help from government" if they are to receive broadband.
While any ISP can now offer broadband services on the islands, Zetnet, one of the largest of the local ISPs, hopes that local business will keep custom close to home.
"There are broadband services on Shetland but this is satellite or microwave technology and ADSL may be better for many people because of the weather," said a Zetnet spokesman.
"While businesses may feel that the upload speed is not as good with ADSL, we hope they will work with local providers."
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