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UPDATE Bristol City Commercialises Ultrafast BNET Fibre Optic Network

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 (1:02 pm) - Score 1,951
fibre optic green cables from top right

The Bristol City Council (BCC) in South West England has given its approval to a 20-year deal with two alternative network ISPs, Net Support UK and ITS Technology Group, which will see the city’s fibre optic BNET broadband infrastructure being used to help connect local premises.

The BNet (Bristol Network) is a 76km long ducting and fibre communications network owned by BCC that has been around for 15 years (it was originally purchased from Rediffusion, a cable TV pioneer) and supports all of the authority’s requirements including telephony, data, traffic related network communications and CCTV.

However ISPreview.co.uk notes that a critical cabinet meeting, which was held last night, resulted in approval being granted for the endorsement of a new agreement that would “let a concession to utilise [spare] capacity in BCC owned B-Net ducts” (concession agreement).

Apparently the deal will have the “dual benefits” of “generating new revenues” for BCC while also increasing the “availability of [ultra fast] broadband for businesses“.

Key Details:

1. The duct will be operated as a concession on the basis that a concession does not attract state aid; offers flexibility to the Council; reduces the need for management of the duct by the Council and offers the operator of the duct an incentive to increase use of the duct.

2. A management fee will be deducted from the BCC Guaranteed Payment in order that the supplier takes responsibility for maintaining the condition of the duct including repair, over the contract life.

3. To provide a range of commercial services across the area that directly contributes to economic growth by increasing access to fast broadband for business.

ISPreview.co.uk understands that the contract has a 5-year review clause, which among other things means that it could be terminated if the council deems that the agreed revenue sharing model is not producing enough of a return.

The first year of guaranteed income is expected to be minimal for obvious early development reasons, although it should rise to £143k in year two and then £275k in year five (the projected level of “guaranteed income” is £903k over five years). Meanwhile the shared income is estimated to total £141k in year one and then £746k in year five.

We further understand that the related contract has been jointly awarded to the ITS Technology Group and Net Support UK (i.e. they will work together), although the deal itself won’t be officially announced until early November 2015.

Both altnets intend to use the new network in order to deliver “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) broadband services across the city, which will help to form part of the wider GigaBit Bristol (Super Connected Cities) programme.

UPDATE 13th November 2015

As expected ITS and Net Support UK have today announced they have signed a contract with Bristol City Council to commercialise the council’s BNET duct infrastructure. The joint venture will trade as BNET Ultra Ltd and the network will be marketed under The Bristol Network brand.

Stephen Hilton, Director of Futures at Bristol City Council, said:

Bristol City Council had the foresight to buy the network of ducting from a cable TV operator more than fifteen years ago. Now, after a programme of upgrades and maintenance, we have created a robust, symmetrical, high capacity network. It is the duct element of this asset that has allowed for the 20 year concession agreement which will deliver in a number of areas.

Most importantly, it will benefit the citizens of Bristol by generating revenue which will help to deliver better council services across the city; and the increased availability of high speed broadband will benefit the incubator of SMEs and start-up businesses that have chosen to locate in our great city.”

Roy Shelton, ITS’ Group CEO, said:

The commercialisation of this network represents a huge opportunity for Bristol. By increasing the availability of connectivity across the city, businesses of all shapes and sizes stand to benefit from the plethora of applications that this home-grown ultrafast digital infrastructure enables. With the Government’s BDUK voucher scheme having drawn to a close, affordable broadband is more important than ever to avoid further digital discrimination.

This is the second commercialisation contract we have secured, as ITS signed a concession agreement with Hammersmith and Fulham Council in February 2014. We are looking forward to delivering super and ultrafast services to our wholesale partners across the network.”

The existing network footprint forms a near ‘figure of eight’ across the city, with only small gaps in the north and south. It’s also noted that there exists a further 60km of “unused duct“, which the new business intends to re-activate and extend to more than 180km.

Businesses can register their interest in broadband services by emailing info@thebristolnetwork.com, while ISPs can register their interest in operating on the network by emailing isp@thebristolnetwork.com .

Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. Avatar Jonas

    Great to see collaboration between ALTNETS to win major public/ private sector partnering deals against the larger incumbents. We need more of these good news stories.

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