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From worst to best broadband in Shetland

Connected! The mast with its turbine and dishes on top of Engamoor at West Burrfirth - Photo: Shetland Broadband

A TINY remote Shetland community has leapfrogged its way from having the slowest to the fastest domestic broadband in the isles.

The seven households in West Burrafirth, in Shetland’s west mainland, are now enjoying a 25 megabit per second (mbps) internet connection having endured dial up speeds for years.

The move comes as a result of old fashioned do it yourself spirit along with the technical know how of local firm Shetland Broadband, a £10,000 lottery grant and the fibre optic cable that now links Shetland to the rest of the world.

The new wireless service has been up and running for the past week, but will be launched officially on Wednesday at a switch on ceremony.

Ian Brown of Shetland Broadband said the community of West Burrafirth had utilised a redundant mast they had erected 30 years ago to provide the isolated community with TV coverage.

The mast now stands on top of the hill at Engamoor from where a microwave signal connects with Shurton Hill 15 miles away near Lerwick.

From there they link directly into Shetland Telecom’s new council-funded fibre optic cable that hooks Lerwick into Faroese Telecom’s SHEFA2 cable, which carries unlimited bandwidth.

“We could have done this several years ago but we have not had the bandwidth to connect them,” Brown said.

The mast carries two dishes that send and receive microwave signals, which are powered by a small wind turbine.

The equipment has been paid for by a £9,700 National Lottery Awards for All grant.

Brown said that the system could be replicated anywhere else that had a line of sight connection with Lerwick, Scalloway or Sella Ness, where the fibre optic cable has been laid.

However he said that each community would require a bespoke package to suit their needs, and the more people it served the greater the cost as it would require more equipment and more power.

As for West Burrafirth, the local community broadband group chaired by John White said that it had brought them into the 21st century.

“Before this I had two satellite services and BT and the service was still a joke,” he said.