A joint research project into rural broadband by Edinburgh University and the University of the Highlands and Islands has built a test network to deliver high-speed internet to a remote area of Scotland.
Researchers built a low-cost ring of wireless phone relays connected to an existing internet connection at the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college in Skye.
The network covers about 40km of the coast of Sleet and Loch Hourn, and the villages of Arnisdale and Corran. Broadband connection from the system is faster than in most cities and the scientists say the system could be replicated across rural Scotland.
Prof Peter Buneman of Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics, who took part in the study, said: ‘Access to the internet is fast becoming a basic utility in cities, but in rural areas it is often unavailable.
‘People living remotely need web access to run businesses, use mail order, access educational support or to contact friends and family. Broadband speed is doubly important in remote areas where radio, TV and telephones may not work well. Our study shows how high-speed access can be made available to remote areas.’
Much of rural Scotland is without high-quality web access, despite government investment to upgrade the existing copper-wire infrastructure and subsidise satellite connections.
Many rural communities are several miles from a telephone exchange, which is too far for high-speed broadband to work.