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Scotland Name ISP Bidders for 100% Superfast Broadband Rollout

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018 (3:24 pm) - Score 3,911
scotland r100 suppliers leak

A meeting of the UK Wireless Internet Service Providers Association has named the four suppliers that are bidding on Scotland’s R100 project, which aspires to make “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) available to 100% of the country by the end of 2021 (March 2022 as a financial year).

At present around 93% of premises can already access a 30Mbps+ capable network and this deployment has so far been supported by the existing £428m Digital Scotland (DSSB) project with BT (Openreach), which has been rolling out a mix of their ‘up to’ 80Mbps FTTC and Gigabit capable FTTP technologies (not to mention separate commercial deployments from Virgin Media etc.).

Once completed the current contract is expected to leave around 280,000+ premises without access to superfast broadband, many of which exist in some of the toughest, most sparse and thus most expensive areas to reach. In response the Scottish Government committed to invest an impressive £600m on tackling the problem by reaching “as many premises as possible for the available subsidy” under the R100 programme (here).

The related procurement is divided into three regional lots (see below) and there are currently 178,948 premises eligible for intervention (“white premises“), which are deemed to be in-scope across the contact. As a reminder, these are as follows.

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.

We had expected to get some solid details about their technology choices and deployment strategy either at the end of 2018 or during early 2019, which is about when the current Digital Scotland project is due to end. However we appear to have been given a few early hints after Clive Downing (Scottish Government) gave a speech to the UKWISPA event this afternoon, which revealed four suppliers that are bidding on each of the three lots.

The suppliers are Axione, BT, Gigaclear and SSE Enterprise Telecoms. Naturally BT needs no explanation and we would have been shocked if they weren’t involved. The inclusion of Gigaclear, which focuses on “full fibre” (FTTH/P) style rural deployments, is perhaps less of a surprise given the recent Infracapital purchase news (here); although it would still be a lot for an operator of their size to take on (no pun intended).

The final two suppliers are a bit more curious. Axione is a French company that has built a number of Gigabit broadband and other networks, but we’ve hardly ever heard their name mentioned alongside deployments in the UK.

Likewise SSE Enterprise Telecoms have tended to be more focused on building fibre and Ethernet infrastructure for business needs in the UK, while their consumer side (SSE) prefers to piggyback off Openreach’s network. Certainly they do have the capabilities to do something big but Scotland’s difficult terrain would seem to be quite a challenging place to kick start such an ambition.

At the very least there is some real competition involved in the bidding process, although it’s not uncommon for big suppliers to drop out as things begin to get more serious. We should have an idea of who is likely to win these lots by the end of 2018 and the slide, which was posted by Point Topic on social media, states that contract signatures are expected in Jan/Feb 2019.

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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.
Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar craski

    I’d love to see the likes of SSE do something disruptive like using their ugly pylons to bring fibre connectivity into remote areas but given timescale I doubt we’ll see anything too radical.

    • Avatar Nigel

      The electricity companies have definitely missed a trick. In England they usually have put fibre on the top line of pylons but they do not break out in enough places to enable WISPs to use to supply their base sites which are often not very far away.

    • Using electricity pylons to run fibre optic cables can create some rather big safety and related maintenance issues for operators. It has been done in some places but suffice to say that there are plenty of reasons for why it’s avoided.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Energis did this some years ago, it didn’t end well!

    • Avatar Gadget

      small point in the scheme of things but lets not forget the move to bury grid cables to avoid “unsightly” pylons and replace them with “eyesore” wind farms………

    • Avatar occasionally factual

      @nigel
      In the Scottish Highlands and Isles, the power lines are often knocked down in bad weather so blackouts are all too common. So having comms on those lines wouldn’t be a good idea. That would make 2 services that would need to be repaired.

  2. Avatar David Jeffrey

    Do a search on Google News for “Applecross” to see what SSE Telecoms are delivering now in rural Scotland and it does not have anything to do with pylons!

  3. Axione is interesting, it’s in the same group as Bouygues Telecom (https://www.bouyguestelecom.fr/) so I wonder if we’re going to see a second BT in the UK…

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