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By: MarkJ - 24 January, 2012 (6:19 AM)
wales uk broadband mapbtopenreach vanJapanese technology giant Fujitsu UK has "voluntarily withdrawn" from the Next Generation Broadband Wales tender process because it believed the "risk levels" were simply "too high". The move, which mirrors a similar situation in Scotland's Highlands & Islands region (here) and GEO's recent exit (here), once again leaves BT as the only major bidder.

Fujitsu UK has been working alongside TalkTalk , Virgin Media and Cisco on a project that aims to deploy an ultrafast 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) capable fibre optic ( FTTP ) based Open Access Wholesale Network (OAWN) into rural areas by 2016.

The network is designed to act as an alternative to BT and has allegedly been making "strong progress to date using Openreach’s poles and ducts" (here), although its heavy dependence upon public funds to get started (it originally wanted £500m from the government) has always been of deep concern.

Fujitsu Statement (PC Pro)

"Fujitsu has voluntarily withdrawn from the Next Generation Broadband Wales tender. After careful consideration, Fujitsu felt the risk levels within the Welsh Government contract terms were too high and therefore had no alternative but to withdraw.

Fujitsu, however, remains focused on Next Generation Broadband projects in other regions where the terms are more agreeable."

Fujitsu has at least pledged to remain "focused" upon other parts of the country, although their 'focus' appears to be increasingly limited to England; we suspect that Wales was also a 'focus' before they pulled out. The future of Fujitsu's project thus remains highly uncertain, much as it has been since the original announcement, and their aim of covering 5 Million UK premises might soon have to be scaled back.

Meanwhile the Welsh Government's Digital Wales Strategy continues to envisage a deployment of 30Mbp+ capable services to 100% of the country's businesses by the middle of 2016 and households by 2020. Some £56.9m of the money for delivering this has come from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office, with more expected to follow from local, EU and private sector investment.

But having only one major bidder risks leaving Wales at a disadvantage and allowing BT more control to negotiate favourable conditions. On the other hand many ordinary people will just be happy if the 100% target could actually be achieved.
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