HOUSEHOLDS in three rural Scottish communities have been chosen to take part in the first commercial trial of a new technology that will increase the speed of fibre broadband over very long phone lines.

Around 60 premises in the villages of Clachan and Whitehouse on the Kintyre peninsula and on the island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides will join the pilot scheme to test the technology — known as Long Reach VDSL — by infrastructure provider Openreach.

The pilot builds on the success of proof-of-concept trials which began in North Tolsta and Barvas on Lewis, in the Western Isles, and in the village of Isfield, East Sussex, last summer.

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The three Scottish sites are among six new UK locations that have been chosen to help Openreach understand how the technology can improve broadband speeds for more homes and businesses across the country.

The others are in Northern Ireland and West Sussex.

Broadband speeds tend to slow down when travelling over long distances, posing a challenge that Openreach is constantly seeking a solution for.

Long Reach VDSL operates at higher power levels and makes use of a wider range of frequencies to increase broadband speeds and the distance over which they can be delivered.

Openreach has migrated all eligible lines in Clachan and Whitehouse and on Eriskay to the new technology and, if it proves successful, they will remain in operation at the higher speeds for the foreseeable future.

The company said early results have been positive, with most households seeing a significant increase in their fibre broadband speeds.

Kim Mears, Openreach managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: “Long Reach VDSL can potentially improve speeds for thousands of homes and businesses across Scotland and the rest of the UK — particularly those connected by long lines.

“Getting faster speeds to rural communities is one of our biggest priorities.

“We believe we can get fibre-based solutions to almost 99 per cent of homes by the end of 2020 including the use of Long Reach VDSL, and our current plans would see most homes in the final five per cent of the UK receive speeds well in excess of 10Mbps.

“This technology is a great piece of British engineering, but it is not something Openreach can just implement alone so we’re delighted to be working with a number of our service provider customers on these pilots to make sure it works with their home routers and TV boxes.”

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, added: “Being able to test new technologies like this in a real-life setting is a crucial step before we can deploy them on a much wider scale.

“I hope people in these three new trial locations will see real improvements in their broadband speed.

“I’m acutely aware of the frustration this causes for those at the end of these lines. We’re working hard to develop technology to help us fill the remaining gaps in the UK’s high-speed broadband jigsaw.’’ Openreach said it is ready to support the UK Government’s ambition that all premises can order a service that delivers a minimum of 10Mbps, regardless of where they are.

Clachan, Whitehouse and Eriskay were chosen due to their remoteness, and because existing fibre cabinets serving the communities support a cluster of long lines where download speeds are less than 10Mbps.