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Waiting to Tender – Devon and Somerset’s Phase 2 Broadband Contract

Friday, December 4th, 2015 (8:03 am) - Score 837
connecting devon and somerset uk logo map

The Connecting Devon and Somerset project, which suffered a big setback in June 2015 after failing to reach a deal to extend “superfast broadband” coverage with BT (here), will be hoping to get back on its horse today when it meets with 32 alternative suppliers to debate a new contract.

At present the existing CDS project is already working with BTOpenreach (Phase 1 Broadband Delivery UK contract) to make “superfast broadband” speeds (24Mbps+) available to over 90% of local homes and businesses by the end of 2016.

The scheme had originally hoped to put another £35m towards a contract extension (BDUK Superfast Extension Programme), which would have targeted 95% coverage by 2017/18. Sadly the councils couldn’t reach a deal with BT (here), with the operator being unable to commit what was needed or offer “any reassurances that the 95% target could be reached” (CDS Statement).

At the time BT said that their offer would have delivered the superfast capable FTTC/P services to another 34,400 premises (this would get them to around 95%) on top of the current contract, but it could have taken until the middle of 2020 to complete and “would take more than 15 years for BT to get a return on its investment.”

Following that the Devon and Somerset councils proposed to put the contract back into an open market tender (originally expected to occur by November 2015) and promised that there would be no delays to the programme. However the latest update suggests that this might not happen until early 2016, with a contract potentially being signed in June 2016.

In keeping with this the CDS project will today hold a “market engagement event” in Taunton, which is bringing together more than 50 delegates from 32 potential suppliers in order to discuss the procurement process and expectations for the second roll-out phase (i.e. funding, requirements, time-scale etc.).

David Hall, Somerset County Councillor, said:

This is the biggest digital infrastructure build opportunity for rural communities in England. We’re delighted that Phase 1 is currently ahead of the Government’s delivery target date of the end of 2016 and it’s critical that the phase 2 roll out allows us to reach the ultimate target date of 2020 for 100% coverage.

This event is important as it will promote the opportunity to a wide range of suppliers and ensure we achieve a competitive tender process. It will also help us shape our thinking on the most appropriate technological solutions for phase 2 which will involve some of the most technically challenging areas in the region.

It is vital that communities in Devon and Somerset are interconnected, as well as being able to connect to the rest of the world. The future lies in digital and CDS is playing a key role in delivering such an environment.”

Apparently a “wide range of technological solutions” will be represented by the attending companies including fibre optic, wireless, mobile, back-haul network and satellite based solutions. In addition, it’s noted that CDS has already held 15 face to face meetings with potential suppliers to date. No doubt BT will also be attending or at least keeping an eye on the proceedings.

Meanwhile critics of CDS have been quick to attack the local authorities for delaying the phase 2 roll-out (strictly speaking it hasn’t reached that point yet) and there’s always a risk that they might pick a bad approach in order to deliver a quick fix, although equally there exists the prospect of a more innovative solution being chosen. One possibility is that a consortium of suppliers may get involved using a mix of connectivity methods (here), but we’ll have to see what next year brings.

In our view we’d encourage CDS to prioritise consideration towards alternative networks that have already established themselves and which are able to deliver a full and flexible internet experience, which means affordability, superfast speeds, low latency and good usage allowances (Ofcom’s latest data suggests that the average home broadband user gobbles 82GB a month).

UPDATE 3:16pm

Just a picture from the event this afternoon.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    One to watch for sure, looking forward to updates on this one

  2. Avatar jeep

    Will probably have a long wait,has mostly been a cluster**** from the start in mid devon, what has been done is a lottery & as for superfast methinks not in most cases unfortunately.

  3. Avatar AndrewH

    Yep, man in suit with PP presentation.
    We’re F***** for sure.

    I had to delete and re-type the rest of this post after I’d typed it. I’m livid!!

    Trying to run an IT business here with 1.7Mbps. HELLO???
    What I don’t want is men in suits.
    I want men/Women with practical ideas and common sense.
    There aren’t any though are there.

    Going to see if my MP has any common sense now.
    Fed up with waiting. My business can’t compete.
    Unacceptable in the 21st century.
    You’d think it was the 19th.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      People in suits have ideas and common sense.

      Your MP will be wewring a suit.

      You could always move…

    • Avatar PeterM

      @AndrewH
      I feel your frustration, I have similar problems in West Sussex.
      I think, however, that things are set to improve. The men and women with practical ideas are waiting in the wings.
      The trouble is that they are waiting for the men in suits to get their scissors out and cut all the red tape that seems to have paralyzed anyones ability to act.

  4. Avatar gerarda

    That picture sums up what has been wrong with the bduk farce since day 1. Too much talking by them and not listening to anyone other than BT and their lobbyists.

  5. Avatar MikeW

    David Hall’s quote doesn’t make sense.

    He’s happy that phase 1 is ahead of the government’s target of the end of 2016 … except that isn’t the target date for phase 1, in either its USC guise or its superfast guise.

    And he talks of phase 2 with a 100% target and date of 2020. Neither of which match the phase 2 targets.

    No wonder they’re having problems reaching agreements…

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