Thursday, July 5, 2012

News: BT bids to take over the Digital Region


BT is one of two private companies bidding to take over the Digital Region project in South Yorkshire.

The superfast broadband network is being built for the region by Digital Region Ltd in partnership with technology company Thales UK. The £90m project includes £30m from the European Regional Development Fund.

The project was wholly owned by the now defunct Yorkshire Forward and the four local authorities of South Yorkshire.

The build phase has been successfully completed to time and cost but the roll out of services to customers has been delayed.

Earlier this year, each authority agreed to a preferred option to enter into a process to procure a supplier to takeover operations and management of the network in order that the network is available to, and used by, as many people and businesses as possible in South Yorkshire.

The appointed supplier is set to take responsibility for all operating costs, sales, marketing and revenue generation.

Digital Region Limited has announced that three companies have been shortlisted to go through to the next stage of an OJEU procurement process for the "Delivering the Digital Region" project.

29 expressions of interest were received in May and following subsequent stages, two bidders continue to progress through the process.

They are BT Wholesale Managed Services and ETDE SA (Entreprise de Transport et de Distribution d'Electricité) the Energy and Services Division of Bouygues Construction.

Bouygues is a French industrial group headquartered in Paris. They work in a range of areas ranging from public works, electricity and maintenance to mobile phone networks and television channels.

BT Wholesale Managed Services is the business within the BT Group that serves fixed and mobile services providers, internet service providers, communications services resellers and global broadcasters and TV production companies with the widest range of services available from a wholesale provider, regionally or nationally in the UK or across 170 countries worldwide.

David Cowell, chief operating officer at Digital Region Limited. said: "We were very impressed with the level of interest and quality of the submissions received. DRL attracted a total of 29 expressions of interest and the companies that have progressed to the next stage presented extremely high quality responses.

"Over the next few months the DRL project team will work with the shortlisted bidders to develop proposals that deliver quality and value for money for residents and businesses in South Yorkshire.

"This is a significant step in moving towards an operation that is sustainable in the long-term and no longer reliant on the public purse. Public funding could only ever be a transitional phase as the business moves to a self-supporting model with a new partner.

"This is a rigorous process that is moving along swiftly and we are on track to deliver the project successfully."

Just last month, BT announced through its local network business, Openreach, that is upgrading their high-speed fibre broadband offer in Rotherham in 2013, making a significant investment in a mix of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP) technologies.

BT and Digital Region Limited were also in dispute over the price that BT charged for the use of their existing lines. Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, made proposals last year stating that BT be required to adjust the charges so as to "only reflect costs that are reasonably derived from costs of provision" and that "BT makes a payment to DRL / Thales to reflect any overpayments where BT's charges included costs that are not costs of provision."

The next stage of the tender process will be the invitation for the submission of detailed solutions by the shortlisted bidders in July 2012. This will be followed by an invitation to submit final tenders in September 2012. DRL aims to award the contract by December 2012.

Digital Region website

Images: Digital Region


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