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BT Expected to Win Norfolk UK Superfast Broadband Contract in September

Thursday, August 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).

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21 Responses
  1. Phil says:

    Oh sod it, what about Telford & Wrekin Council FTTC to coverages 100% ? Time to axed BT line – as what the point without FTTC ?

  2. Chris Conder says:

    What a surprise.

  3. Michael says:

    With a growing number of FTTC “wins” does anyone have a definitive answer as to what fibre infrastructure is deployed between an Exchange and its Cabinets.

    I am assuming that in most instances it is a new duct build that is then provisioned with blown fibre bundles – 96 fibre pairs ?

    If this is the case then presumably the future capacity to what has become a roadside “Point of Presence” is into the Terabits range, only a fraction of which is initially “accessible” over FTTC.

    Is therefore FTTC such a bad stepping stone ?

    1. Kyle says:

      Maybe not if it were indeed a stepping stone.

      However, it is not. It is the solution to the country’s broadband woes and it has been previously reported that areas with only FTTC won’t be upgraded to FTTP in the future.

    2. Somerset says:

      Tubes are put into existing duct for blown fiber. This also gives infrastructure for future fiber like FOD.

    3. FibreFred says:

      Kyle ,fibre on demand if you need it over Fttc you will be able to get it. So it is a stepping stone

  4. Ben says:

    It’s a tough one to be honest.

    The idea of BDUK was to create a competitive market.

    I personally find FTTC WBC less competitive than ADSL since you can’t LLU FTTC.

    That said, while FTTP coverage would be better for the end user it’s an expensive outlay.

    That said if the government scrapped that useless HS2 rail network plan and invested it all in FTTP I’m sure you could get solid coverage around the country.

    I still think that the government should own the infrastructure (FTTP) and then have the ISPs LLU the exchanges as needs be to provide a more competitive network.

    Lets be honest, it’s cheaper for O2 Wholesale to roll into hand picked exchanges and install their own equipment that it is for Openreach to provide their wholesale network across the country. A private fibre network that then means that the cost for installing the local equipment is the same for BT, TalkTalk, O2 or anyone else would create a more competitive network in my opinion.

  5. Sledgehammer says:

    Even by 2015 there will still be 10% of the country still stuck on 2Mbps or less.

    Well if that 10% move away from a BT landline will that shock BT into some positive action? I doubt it, but it will put a dent on the income from line rental. Will this necessitate further increases by BT in line rental and other service increases, yes.

  6. bob says:

    BT have pretty much with the help of BDUK been able to wipe out what very limited competition there was as LLU is now on it’s way out and the only product on the market for 99% of users is BT FTTC or FTTP. A few ISPs are providing FTTC or FTTP but all they are doing is reselling the BT product.

    Is a monopoly by the incumbent operator beneficial to Broadband users? I would say not. We have to have a true second wholesale provider and not hav the current monopoly situation.

    As a short term measure BT should be required to at least split off openreach fromBT as at least a wholly owned subsidery company. This means you have true seperation of Openreach from BT. BT retail would then be a customer of Openreach in the same way any other telco or ISP is ie BT retail would have to pay to access the Openreach ducting on the same basis as anyone else

  7. dragoneast says:

    Wonderful isn’t it how the media can (sic) announce the result of a tender before the awarding authority? No wonder Levinson gets uppity.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Disagree. Saying BT is “expected” to win, and basing that prediction on past evidence as well as some sources we have with a local ISP, is certainly not the same as saying BT “has won” and surely doesn’t deserve the Levinson phone hacking comparison; that should be clear in the language. It’s still a prediction with a strong foundation, unless you have evidence to the contrary.

      I for one want to see Fujitsu win some tenders but so far the evidence doesn’t lend much support in their direction.

  8. dragoneast says:

    Apologies Mark, if you thought I was suggesting that there could be any hacking involved – certainly that was not the case. However it did seem that something might be available beyond just extrapolation from what has happened so far, which surely isn’t news as it’s been apparent for ages.

    I’m surprised that no-one has questioned BDUK being done on a county basis. (The PR-speak of local authority area is confusing – most people do not think of their local authority as the often remote county council). Look at any alnet and they work on much smaller areas in all cases (in many cases with local authority support), so why were countywide bids decided upon, when the only county-wide operator in every case is BT? Is the prior market assessment undertaken to justify this approach publicly available, it could be interesting to compare that assessment with the out-turn? “It’s a cheaper and quicker procurement” isn’t usually an acceptable justification to restrict competition, though perhaps in economically straightened times it ought to be, perhaps.

    1. bob says:

      It should have been done at a much higher level. Even county level is to small to be cost efficient & to attract the big players that can actually deliver the goods. I would suggest using the EU regions. For example England is split into 9 EU Regions, examples being East of England, North West England. These regions are large enough to get benefits of scale and attract competition to BT. Having to submiy mutiple bids for tiny local council contacts is not realy going to interest any competition particularly when they are up against a monopoly incumbent

      I doubt Fujitsu have much interst now.They may take one small contract to run as a pilot

    2. Somerset says:

      dragoneast – work on much smaller areas

      bob – I would suggest using the EU region

      And we actually have something in the middle.

  9. zemadeiran says:

    As I have said before,

    What the country REALLY needs is a fiber optic mesh of small networks with peering to 2+ networks (towns/villages).

    This solution would completely bypass the need for BT and it’s exchanges. We would then have a fully redundant ip network covering the whole of the UK.

    There would be several undersea cable paths to route international traffic through from various parts of the country. Why can’t we have several hundred small network operators focusing on their particular area and providing info and services for it’s subscribers?

    Imagine the employment and income that could be generated?

    If we really want choice, this is the route to go.

    Regards to all.

    1. FibreFred says:

      A nice dream

    2. Somerset says:

      Because small network operators find it makes more sense to join into large ones particularly if they need to provide 24×7 support for businesses. What info and services would be unique to small areas?

      Look at what happened to all the cable companies. Became VM.

  10. cyberdoyle says:

    thank goodness we got VM, at least BT have some competition…
    there wouldn’t be much need for support with a proper fibre network, the biggest support needed is for the failing copper. Old ladies can’t fit new face plates and don’t understand rebooting faulty routers. Families can’t understand caps and throttling. The internet has to be easy, and just work, and be taken for granted. The only way it will work is with a proper futureproof connection and stop patching up the old phone network that only serves those close to exchanges. Cabinets and fast trains are not the future. Time to light the fibre.

    1. Gadget says:

      Precious little Virgin cable visibility in Norfolk, at least BT has already announced their own investment in some exchanges (Kings Lynn, Thetford, Holt, Norwich, Great Yarmouth)

    2. New_Londoner says:

      Empty, meaningless slogans are not the answer either.

      FTTP also involves routers, is not immune to caps and throttling, both of which are down to the ISP not the transport layer. And I don’t imagine your hypothetical “old ladies” will be any more likely to want to fit a fibre connector either, although this has nothing to do with either their age or gender, both of which are irrelevant.

      Most of your post above implies that fibre has some special properties that don’t apply to copper, however none of the examples that you cite are specific to fibre or copper. More research required?

    3. FibreFred says:

      I must admit, I find the fact that you are so heavily involved in a network rollout but seem to understand nothing about how networks actually work in real life worrying.

      Fibre=no support?
      Fibre=no caps/throttles?

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