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Scotland Publish Tender for Universal R100 Superfast Broadband Rollout

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017 (12:20 pm) - Score 1,733
digital scotland fibre optic map

As expected the Scottish Government has published the OJEU procurement document for their £600 million R100 programme, which aspires to extend superfast broadband (30Mbps+) networks to cover 100% of premises in Scotland (UK) by the end of 2021 (or March 2022 as a financial year).

At present around 92-93% of premises can already access a 30Mbps+ capable network and the current target aims to see this hit 95% by the end of March 2018. This is supported by the existing £428m Digital Scotland (DSSB) project with BT (Openreach), which is busy rolling out a mix of their ‘up to’ 80Mbps FTTC and 330Mbps FTTP technologies (not to mention separate commercial deployments from Virgin Media etc.).

Naturally some parts of the country are making better progress than others, with coverage in the rural Highland and Islands region only being expected to reach 86% by the end of 2017. However last week the Scottish Government confirmed that they intended to invest an impressive £600m on tackling the final 5% (here) and today the related procurement exercise has finally begun.

As expected the procurement has been divided up into three regional lots (Lot 1 – the North lot, Lot 2 – the Central lot and Lot 3 – the South lot) and it reveals that there are around 178,948 premises eligible for intervention (“white premises“), which are in scope across the contact(s). The total contract length is 120 months (10 years), although this covers on-going management as well as the initial build phase.

The aim now is to find “suppliers who will connect as many premises as possible for the available subsidy” (i.e. the 100% target is not yet set in stone until the supplier(s) have had their say).

Lot 1 – the North lot

The North Area is broadly the Highlands and Islands, Angus, Aberdeen and Dundee (more particularly described and shown coloured green on the plan forming Annex 1 of the Initial Descriptive Document) and comprises approximately 99,288 White Premises. Estimated value excluding VAT: £384m.

Lot 2 – the Central lot

The Central Area is broadly central Scotland and Fife (more particularly described and shown coloured amber on the plan forming Annex 1 of the Initial Descriptive Document) and comprises approximately 53,570 White Premises. Estimated value excluding VAT: £83m.

Lot 3 – the South lot

he South Area is broadly the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway (more particularly described and shown coloured purple on the plan forming Annex 1 of the Initial Descriptive Document) and comprises approximately 26,090 White Premises. Estimated value excluding VAT: £133m.

One interesting, albeit unsurprising, caveat is that on Lot 1 any bidders, consortium members or reliance entities will be required to have a minimum “average” yearly turnover of £3.2 million for the last 3 years (this drops to £1.5m for Lot 2 and £0.8m for Lot 3), as well as all the usual insurance protections etc. Otherwise the document (view it here) appears to be of a fairly standard setup. Credits to Tim for the notice.

UPDATE 3:39pm

The Scottish Government has now put out an announcement to accompany today’s news.

Fergus Ewing, Scottish Connectivity Secretary, said:

“We have taken the decision not to focus on urban city centre premises in this first phase, but to target investment where it is needed most – in rural and remote Scotland. We are working with the private sector to encourage their own investment in unconnected urban areas, rather than rely on public funds.

Reaching 100% will not be easy to achieve, however achieve it we must. Fast and reliable digital connectivity is a fundamental expectation of all communities, regardless of location.

To deliver our ambition, this government is investing £600 million through the Reaching 100% programme – more than any government in the UK has ever invested in broadband.

I am confident that this procurement approach, funded by our record investment, will put delivery of our unique 100% commitment within touching distance. We are aiming to provide a robust fibre backbone to underpin delivery of superfast broadband for all by the end of 2021.”

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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14 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    Where is the mention of 100%? Just says ‘to as many premises in Scotland as possible by the end of 2021’.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Maybe in the documents.

    • Avatar Matthew Williams

      ITs still not a firm goal if they can they will it depends on who responds to the tender and what they can achieve with the money. It’s still a far better situation then before at minimum we are talking 99% from what I’ve heard.

    • The Scottish Government use the 100% figure a lot and the 100 in R100 means 100%, although they don’t tend to get too specific with coverage %s in procurement documents and that’s true for most such tenders. But as I said in the article, the 100% figure isn’t set in stone until suppliers have been chosen and said what they can actually deliver for the given funding.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Isn’t ‘universal’ 100%?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @TheFacts

      Universal does not necessarily mean 100%, despite what people might think. The existing Universal Service Obligation for supplying of telephone services is subject to a price cap beyond which excess construction charges apply. There are also caveats with regard to the type of premises too (for instance, holiday accommodation which hasn’t been granted permanent occupation rights is not included either).

      It may be that the Scottish Parliament will make it 100%, but even then, I’m sure there will be qualifications. I can’t imagine it will apply to every remote bothy.

  2. Avatar occasionally factual

    Average cost per premise by Lot number

    Lot 1 £3,867.54
    Lot 2 £1,548.37
    Lot 3 £5,097.74

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Given the proliferation of small rural exchanges in Scotland, it would interesting for OR to request a telephony sunset date for telephony in a subset of the exchanges due to be worked on.

    • Depends what you mean by that (disable PSTN in favour of VoIP or completely switching off copper and replacing with FTTP), but if you’re talking about switching off the old copper network then part of the obstacle is Sky/TT/Ofcom.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @NGA

      It is not within the remit of the Scottish Parliament to be able to agree to a “sunset date” for copper. It would require Ofcom action, and given the manifest complications of getting that organised and coordinated with this procurement exercise, then I can’t see it happening. Furthermore, I would expect any such thing to attract challenges on competition grounds if OR were able to gain some sort of particular advantage from doing so.

    • And what has the copper local loop to do with their procurement?

      Until you know who is bidding and who actually wins the contracts and their contractual aims any talk of retiring copper is daft.

      The funding levels being so much better than previous contracts is going to attract more bidders and consortia with a widespread technology mix.

  3. Avatar Steve Jones

    I am going to put my pedant’s hat on (admittedly always close to hand) and point out that has been issued is called an invitation to tender (ITT). The bids (formal offers) from potential suppliers are called tenders.

    I don’t know why it is, but it seems to be an increasing tendency for people to refer to ITTs as tenders.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      “what” not “that”…

    • Avatar Gadget

      The Prequalification questionnaire (PQQ) in the standard procurement process – getting the information on the viability of bidders to deliver – turnover, solvency, details of directors and their eligibility etc, as well as outline solution proposals.

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