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O2 Wins Network Rail Contract

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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O2 Unify has won a contract to upgrade and replace the Cisco networking infrastructure belonging to Network Rail

Just hours after the Government confirmed plans for a £33bn high-speed rail network (HS2), the services arm of mobile operator O2 has revealed it is to refresh Network Rail’s entire portfolio of Cisco switches and routers.

O2 Unify said the the upgrade programme will take place across 450 Network Rail locations, including four data centres in the UK.

The contract is for three years and is worth several million pounds. It is unknown which company currently manages the Cisco infrastructure.

Safe Pair Of Hands

Meanwhile O2 Unify also confirmed that it was awarded the contract to provide the networking equipment for Network Rail’s new National Centre, The Quadrant, in Milton Keynes.

O2 Unify will install Cisco LAN and WAN kit in the new building, which will house up to 3,500 workers from June this year. The futuristic-looking glass and steel Quadrant building in Milton Keynes will officially open in October, according to Network Rail, but it won’t replace its current headquarters in London.

“Our strong service culture and customer focus from our core mobile business put us in a very strong position to provide wider communications services,” said Paul Osborne, MD of O2 Unify. “We demonstrated strong technical capability in the LAN WAN space as well as good commercial positioning. O2 Unify is viewed as a safe pair of hands to deliver this project and we now provide a whole range of services for Network Rail including project management, business process outsourcing and consultancy as well as products such as WAN, LAN, fixed and mobile.”

Network Rail is currently facing the need to reduce its costs by 21 percent over a five year period. According to O2 Unify, the replacement of Network Rail’s WAN/LAN kits should help reduce its Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of its network infrastructure estate.

Telecom Infrastructure

Network Rail is the body responsible for the United Kingdom’s railway network, excluding Northern Island and the London Underground. Network Rail essentially acquired the previous national rail network administrator Railtrack back in 2002, following the aftermath of the Hatfield train crash in 2000.

Yet what many people fail to realise is that Network Rail also operates various telecommunication networks for signalling and control systems, train radio systems, lineside communications, level crossing CCTV, station information and security systems.

Indeed, it is said to be the largest private telecoms network in the UK. Unfortunately, this means it often finds itself victim of metal thieves seeking copper and other generic metals to sell to unscrupulous traders. Network Rail revealed in December that metal theft is costing the railways £19m plus a year. It said thieves are targeting signalling cables, overhead line equipment and even its metal fences to sell for scrap.