Telecoms firm BT has award three companies contracts for rolling out subsea cables to hard-to-reach parts of the Scottish Highlands and associated islands.
The firm said on Monday that the three contracts are worth £26.9m, and that the cash will be given to A-2-Sea Solutions, Orange Marine and Global Marine Systems.
A-2-Sea Solutions will work onshore and connect the cables up to BTs network, Orange Marine will lay the subsea cables, and Global Marine Systems will provide the surveys and the hardware. BT, naturally, will supply the connectivity.
"Quite simply, it's the biggest subsea engineering project BT has undertaken in UK territorial waters and is the first ever with so many seabed crossings," said Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland.
"The size of the task presents a massive challenge, not only because of the number of cables involved but also the fact that the work has to be completed within a single, six-month weather window. The pressure is on but we're confident that in just over a year's time, the Highlands and Islands will be set to benefit from its own network of underwater, fibre-optic cables."
BT said it has worked with all the companies already, and that in just one instance they will lay down almost 80km of cable. That cable, the longest planned, will run from Ullapool to Stornoway. Twenty cables are planned.
The firm said this is all part of a £146m investment project launched with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
HIE director of Digital Highlands and Islands Stuart Robertson said: "From the outset HIE was determined that this project would reach across our region. The subsea cables are an essential part of bringing high-speed broadband to our west-coast communities.
"Their installation is essential in order to reach the 84 percent coverage target for the region. The fibre network will bring services closer to everyone and will make it easier to provide better broadband to even our hardest-to-reach areas."
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