Fujitsu backs off and BT wins another two rural broadband cibtracts
BT is set to win a contract to build the super-fast broadband infrastructure for Suffolk, after rival Fujitsu confirmed it has withdrawn from bidding for a BDUK-backed contract to cable the county with fibre.
The move comes on the heels of BT’s selection by neighbouring Norfolk County Council to build its superfast network, a decision announced by the county council last week and due to be formally adopted at a public meeting in Norwich on Monday. Last week, Cumbria also announced that BT is getting its fibre contract.
Fujitsu pulls out
A Fujitsu spokeswoman confirmed to TechWeek Europe UK on Monday that the company “did not bid for the Suffolk contract”. Fujitsu and BT are the only two companies authorised to bid for contracts under the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework, which is allocating £530m of government funding to help bring broadband to the one-third of UK premises that would not otherwise be served by the broadband market.
Fujitsu’s withdrawal from the Suffolk competition clears the way for BT to be named as the “preferred bidder” by Suffolk County Council at a cabinet meeting on 22 September, according to a Monday report by local newspaper Eastern Daily Press.
Representatives of both BT and Suffolk County Council said they could not comment on the bid, as negotiations are still under way.
Norfolk County Council announced the details of its contract with BT last week, revealing that the upcoming network will provide broadband speeds of faster than 24 Mbps to around 80 percent of Norfolk’s homes and businesses by the deadline of June 2015.
All premises across the county are to have access to minimum broadband speeds of at least 2 Mbps, including 44,000 properties which currently have no broadband access.
“This represents a staggering acceleration in broadband provision in Norfolk,” said Ian Mackie deputy leader at Norfolk County Council, in a statement. “The significance of this deal and this project for the future success of our county cannot be underestimated.”
Norfolk will spend £15m of its own funds on the project, with BDUK providing another £15m and BT to spend £9.3m on capital infrastructure costs, as well as covering ongoing support and maintenance costs.
BT wins Cumbria
Last week Cumbria County Council awarded BT its BDUK superfast broadband contract. In this case, too, BT was the sole remaining competitor after Fujitsu withdrew in July. Initially Cumbria had rejected the bids of both BT and Fujitsu.
BT has so far won all of the BDUK money handed out by local councils, including Lancashire, Rutland, North Yorkshire and Surrey. As BDUK constitutes state aid, the European Commission is investigating the fairness of the scheme. The fact that BT has won all the contracts so far might lead to censure – if it turns out that this position was achieved unfairly.
“The state aid clearance will apply to funds outside of the framework and indeed to any government funded project for broadband in rural areas, as well as those inside the framework,” said a BT spokesman. “We have not won all the bids in the framework yet and may well lose some and there are also potentially bids outside of the framework which we also not win”.
The EC is expected to announce its decision in November.
BDUK’s overall target is to give the UK the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. The government wants to provide superfast broadband to 90 percent of the UK, with a minimum of 2Mbps available to all UK premises.
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