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BT Expected to Win Norfolk UK Superfast Broadband Contract in September

Thursday, Aug 30th, 2012 (2:00 pm) - Score 990

The Norfolk County Council (NCC) will announce the winner of its £60m (estimated) Local Broadband Plan (LBP) contract next month, which aims to cover 90% of the county with the “highest possible levels” of superfast broadband by March 2015, but hardly anybody expects a Fujitsu win.

Norfolk is a large rural county with a land area of 549,751 hectares. Overall some 41% of the 850,800 population reside in just four large urban areas; the city of Norwich and the three large towns of Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Thetford. However it’s estimated that close to 270,000 premises are in need of state aid to help them receive a faster broadband ISP connection (44,000 of which can’t even get a “basic” connection).

The government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office has already allocated £15,440,000 to help the region (they were one of the first to benefit in May 2011), which will be matched by another £15m from the local authority and then hopefully doubled by their chosen private sector partner. A final decision on who will win the contract is expected by 21st September next month.

Curiously NCC has chosen not to specify a specific speed target and instead seeks “significant levels of speed uplift to provide superfast broadband for as much of Norfolk as possible“. But they also admit that this must still be able to meet the government’s core target, which aims for 90% to be within reach of a superfast internet connection (25Mbps+) by 31st March 2015.

Ann Steward, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at NCC, said:

September will be an exciting month for us and anyone who is frustrated by poor or no access to broadband in Norfolk. All the work we’ve done so far has been laying the foundations for us to get to the day when we award the contract. Because we are expecting a significant investment from the private sector partner as part of the contract, it’s at this stage we will know exactly how much money we have for the project and how far it can go.

Our aim has always been to make superfast broadband available to as many properties as possible with the funding we have, and rest assured this will continue to be the goal throughout the project. We want Norfolk to feel the benefit of this investment for many years to come.”

The council claims that September’s contract award will make it the “first local authority to appoint a partner through the national BDUK framework contract“, although several other counties and UK regions (e.g. North Yorkshire, Lancashire, Wales, Scottish Highlands and Islands) have also reached a similar stage. One other thing they all have in common is the selection of BT.

So far Fujitsu, with its unproven plans for a rural Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network via BT’s existing cable ducts, has failed to win any of the contracts and is thus increasingly being viewed as an unlikely candidate to pickup future tenders. It’s a situation that even has the European Commission (EC) concerned (here) and, some claim, is perhaps testament to a long history of limited regulatory intervention. Suffice to say that BT is expected to win Norfolk too and possibly everywhere else as well.

Norfolk council would then expect work to install the new broadband infrastructure to begin early next year (i.e. around spring 2013), with the first services becoming available “shortly afterwards“. However, like most of the other projects, the funding for all this is still subject to the timing of State Aid approval from Europe, which is currently running a bit late (here).

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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