Home & Office

Public sector tempts fat pipes with fat wallet

Timms reveals who gets the right to bid for his BAP
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Timms reveals who gets the right to bid for his BAP

The purchasing power of the public sector has been harnessed to further the government's goal of 100 per cent broadband availability in the UK by 2005 with the awarding of 17 framework agreements to supply public sector broadband.

The 17 suppliers will be able to bid to provide broadband to institutions such as schools, post offices and the health service, over a particular area. There are nine regional aggregation bodies and one nationwide body, which will assess and aggregate the demand for public sector broadband with the approved suppliers then bidding on the contract.

The theory goes that by using the financial muscle of a whole host of public sector bodies, not only do the institutions get a better deal from providers, they also make a contract more tempting for the provider, as well as driving broadband rollout in the general populace by encouraging suppliers to upgrade exchanges in rural areas.

John Wilmot, public sector marketing manager for one of the suppliers, Telewest, isn't entirely convinced, however.

"It depends on the technology the regional aggregation boards choose [as to whether there's a rural rollout]," he told silicon.com. "It will vary on a case by case basis. It will mean better value for money, but whether or not there will be a knock-on effect for consumers and small businesses, I'm not convinced it's the case," as some public sector bodies would be better suited to cable than ADSL, which means suppliers have no reason to upgrade their rural exchanges.

The Broadband Aggregation Project (BAP) certainly seems to have got the big fish of broadband biting nonetheless. The contract winners include BT, Telewest, NTL and Cable and Wireless in a selection that was whittled down from a shortlist of 27.

The other winners are Colt, Easynet, Energis, Equinox, Kingston Communications, Logicalis, MLL, Neos Networks (SSET), Networks by Wireless, Research Machines, Synetrix, Thus and Your Communications.

The government will be encouraging the regional aggregation bodies to use online auctions to buy up some connectivity, which the DTI says will save more money than traditional bidding methods. And this money-saving activity can only be good news for the taxpayer, according to the DTI.

However, public sector agencies will still be able to buy their broadband connectivity via the usual channels if they choose.

The way the procurement process has been arranged went down well with one lucky winner, Energis, whose CEO, John Pluthero, said in a statement he'd like to see consumer broadband go the same way.

"The competitive manner in which these public service broadband contracts will be awarded by the government can only be good news for the taxpayer. If only Ofcom would rule for the same level of competition in the residential wholesale broadband market, consumers would also be better off," he said.

Editorial standards