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Government seeks no-cost ideas for universal 2Mbps broadband

The government is to hold a open day on 15 July in London to hear ideas from industry about how to provide and pay for a minimum 2Mbps broadband service to the UK's "not spots", and how to roll a "superfast" broad service at the same time, according to a notice in the Official Journal of the EU.

The government confirmed two goals: to introduce a universal service commitment of a minimum broadband access speed of 2Mbps by 2012, and to avoid a "digital divide" by rolling out "superfast" broadband in remote areas at the same time as more densely populated urban areas received it.

The new Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Business, Innovation & Research (BIS), will assess the ideas.

Pilot projects

BDUK will conduct a "worked example" exercise to understand different solutions including a mix of technologies and a mix of incumbent, new and public sector networks to the universal service commitment problem, and opportunities for superfast broadband connectivity in different geographies.

Suppliers will be invited to take part in a paper-based exercise at the event and to propose value for money and commercially sustainable universal service commitment and superfast broadband solutions in three "real world" examples.

"BDUK will be seeking complete and integrated responses which will require collaboration and partnering between multiple technology suppliers to demonstrate that together they could deliver commercial ISP services to all premises in the chosen geographies," the government said.

The group will also implement pilot projects to test the proposals in terms of delivering high speed connectivity, high quality data transport, and affordable pricing.

"BDUK anticipates that a regional approach will be appropriate for the planning and deployment of superfast broadband, and will test and refine a re-usable approach in a pilot region, before implementing it in other regions across the UK," the government said.

No licence to print money

BIS said proposals would have to minimise the public sector investment required and limit the potential to distort competition.

Competitions for subsequent funding, subsidies and other incentives would be by open tender basis and may involve different phases and/or lots, it said.

"Suppliers will be encouraged to reuse existing infrastructure (including incumbent and public sector networks) wherever possible, and third party access to new subsidised infrastructures and contractual clawback mechanisms to avoid over-compensation will be required to ensure compatibility with state aid rules," it warned. The government would also require guarantees of completion.

BDUK, whose CEO is Adrian Kamellard, will publish a list of those attending the industry day on its website.

More details are available from Martin Doyle at martin.doyle@bis.gsi.gov.uk.


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