A series of innovative pilot schemes aimed at delivering superfast broadband in the hardest to reach parts of the UK has demonstrated smaller suppliers can compete against the likes of industry giants like Virgin Media and BT Openreach, a report published today reveals.
The pilots were set up to look at different ways of delivering superfast broadband in some of the UK’s most sparsely populated rural areas to better understand the capabilities of alternative suppliers to BT Openreach and Virgin Media. The pilots have now been running for over a year testing alternative technologies and commercial and operational models to provide good quality superfast broadband services to some of the most remote households across the UK.
The success of the pilots have given smaller suppliers the confidence to bid for Phase 2 contracts of the Government’s rollout of superfast broadband, currently on track to take coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017. Five independent suppliers have won contracts as the rollout now moves into its second phase, having already reached almost four million additional homes and businesses.
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The Government’s rollout of superfast broadband is the fastest of its kind anywhere in the world and is a truly massive engineering project. Our pilot scheme has demonstrated that alternative technologies can help us take superfast speeds to the hardest to reach areas of the UK and I’m very pleased that smaller suppliers are now competing for, and winning, contracts for the next phase of the rollout.”
The seven Pilot projects include Avanti and Satellite Internet, who are using superfast-capable satellite; Airwave, Quickline and AB Internet, who are using fixed wireless; and Call Flow and Cybermoor, who are using a mix of fibre and fixed wireless technologies.
Findings of the pilots include:
Suppliers can successfully mix technologies to deliver cost-effective superfast broadband solutions in hard to reach areas;
Smaller suppliers can bid for, win and deliver open public procurements at competitive costs, including meeting the necessary EU-wide State aid requirements for receiving public funding;
Communities can work together with suppliers to create viable commercial conditions for small projects; and
New partnerships have been fostered, including with other network providers such as Janet and Network Rail Telecom, which will lead to new opportunities to deliver services once the pilots have ended.
Government is now discussing with suppliers how to ensure the long term sustainability of their projects and how the lessons learned can be applied to help Government, Industry and Local Authorities extend the rollout of superfast broadband to those places not covered by existing plans.
Malcolm Corbett, Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) Chief Executive said: “We are really pleased that these Pilots have given an opportunity for smaller suppliers to showcase what they are capable of, and have led to more BDUK contracts being awarded to alternative suppliers. I look forward to many more public contracts being awarded to smaller suppliers in future.”
Andy Conibeare, Managing Director of Call Flow commented: “Participating in a large scale project like the Market Test Pilot programme, has enabled us to improve our processes, as well as driving change in the industry. As a result, we have been able to successfully bid for, and win, significant State Aid funding to build similar solutions in Berkshire.
“Call Flow are now planning to build on this experience, and will be bidding for the State Aid funded opportunities in the coming months, with contract values exceeding £50M. Additionally, we are exploring funding options to take advantage of the significant commercial opportunities that still exist that do not require State Aid intervention.”