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Devon and Somerset UK Launch New Broadband Procurement

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 (10:25 am) - Score 1,419

After another slight delay the Connecting Devon and Somerset project last week launched their new procurement process (previously due by end of 2019), which aims to find a supplier that can help them to roll-out “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) across the remaining poorly served homes and businesses in both counties.

The CDS scheme has had more than a few major stumbles over the years and we won’t repeat all of that again today (see here and here for a summary), but suffice to say that last year’s Open Mark Review (OMR) identified around 115,000 premises that cannot currently access superfast or close to superfast speeds. The related premises were said to be “at risk of not being served” by any commercial operators – at least within the next 3 years – unless action is taken.

NOTE: The Devon and Somerset in England is home to a total of c.1.1 million premises (some c.300,000 premises benefited from the CDS Phase 1 deal with BT via FTTC/P).

The new procurement process is believed to be supported by a pot of public funding worth a total of up to £56m and that includes £38m via the Government’s Building Digital UK programme, as well as various bits of funding from the Heart of the South West LEP, CDS local authorities (including some gainshare / clawback from BT’s Phase 1 CDS roll-out), the European Regional Development Fund and the Rural Development Programme for England.

Given the current UK government’s focus, any new contracts are likely to focus on deployments of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) or other “gigabit-capable” based broadband ISP technologies. Indeed one of the related procurement documents (here) does specifically mention “gigabit“, which is not a surprise. We also note that FarrPoint has been selected to help support the procurement process over the next 12 months (here).

Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said:

“These contracts will deliver connectivity to some of the hardest to reach premises in the CDS region, ensuring future-proof broadband infrastructure which is critical for residents and businesses alike. In an increasingly competitive market, I look forward to seeing proposals from a range of providers to maximise coverage for those premises that are yet to benefit from decent broadband speeds.”

Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to secure funding and get back on track to bringing the benefits of faster and more reliable broadband to people and businesses in Devon and Somerset.

We’re absolutely committed to levelling up the country with better infrastructure, and have recently pledged a further £5 billion so that hard-to-reach areas will get gigabit-capable broadband at the same time as the rest of the country.”

Assuming all goes to plan – a seemingly tough ask when it comes to the history of CDS – then the final bids from suppliers are expected to be received by the end of Summer 2020, with contracts being awarded in December 2020. The deployments would then begin several months after that in 2021, usually following a final engineering survey.

Naturally it will be interesting to see who wins the contract(s), particularly whether or not BT and Gigaclear make another bid (we’d be surprised if Gigaclear did given the failure of their Phase 2 CDS contract, but you never know). Meanwhile few could escape the irony if BT were to scoop it, particularly after their original proposal for a Phase 2 contract with the operator was abandoned in 2015 due to a disagreement on targets and funding.

On a more positive note, the whole Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is expected to deliver a £800 million boost to the regional economy. Mind you such predictions should always be taken with a pinch of salt as it’s notoriously difficult to forecast the economic impact of faster broadband connectivity.

NOTE: Apologies for not reporting on the CDS update last week but we had a lot of other news to get out.

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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
6 Responses
  1. Avatar New_Londoner

    Another procurement from the CDS team, what could possibly go wrong! Presumably none of those responsible for the continuing fiasco in the council, officers or politicians, have resigned or been sacked?

  2. Avatar Fred

    I’ll be long dead before this fiasco is sorted out – and I am only 47 now. Luckily I believe that Truespeed are installing fibre infrastructure in my road next week – with actual home install hopefully not far behind.

    As for CDS, those presiding over the farce should have been sacked long ago. The incompetence is jaw dropping. Even by local government standards their achievements are notable.

    F

  3. Avatar James

    “Back on track?” Not only faster broadband but a time machine to take us to 2015 when this all started coming off the rails as well!

  4. Avatar The Facts

    ‘usually following a final engineering survey’

    Is that what Gigaclear did?

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