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Work has been completed on a major broadband infrastructure project in the Scottish Isles, which is designed to deliver fibre services to remote communities.

Thousands of homes and businesses are set to benefit from the Digital Scotland initiative, which has seen BT lay 250 miles of cable across 20 seabed crossings.

Engineering work started in July, with BT enlisting cable-laying firm Orange Marine - and its 14,000-tonne ship the Rene Descartes - to assist with the project.

A submersible plough, remotely operated vehicles, and other support vessels were used to lay double-armoured fibre cable in the seabed.

The £26.9 million fibre deployment comes as part of the £146 million Digital Highlands and Islands rollout, which is designed to bring super-fast broadband to 84 per cent of the Highlands and Islands population by the end of 2016.

BT Scotland Director Brendan Dick claimed the scheme was "by far the most ambitious and challenging" it has tackled in British waters.

"This has been the most complex subsea project BT has tackled in UK waters, as well as being the largest number of seabed cables laid in a single weather window," he noted.

Mr Dick said he was "proud" of the endeavour shown by the whole engineering team to overcome the various technical and environmental challenges.

Work is continuing on the Scottish mainland to complete the Digital Scotland fibre network, by linking the 20 subsea connections together.

Once this has been completed, super-fast services will go live on a number of islands - with BT aiming to activate fibre broadband in spring 2015.

Download speeds of up to 80Mb will be achievable via the network; roughly ten times the best currently available on the Scottish Isles.

John Swinney, the Scottish Government's Deputy First Minister, said many island communities will start to benefit from fibre broadband over the coming months.

"The rollout of super-fast broadband will allow households to connect to fibre services for the first time, as well as giving businesses the opportunity to enhance their services," he noted.

More than 150,000 premises have already gained access to fibre broadband as a result of the ongoing Digital Scotland rollout.

This means - when commercial fibre networks are included - super-fast services are now available to more than 1.4 million premises north of the border.

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