Fujitsu has withdrawn from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) process, leaving BT as the only eligible competitor for the publicly funded superfast fibre contracts.
BDUK is the government organisation responsible for the £530m pot to roll out connectivity across the UK, tasked with providing the best broadband infrastructure in Europe by 2015 – a goal set by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
When the process began, Fujitsu and BT were the only two operators to have all the criteria required by government to bid on local authority contracts to deploy broadband. However, the Japanese firm claims added caveats have destroyed its prospects of winning any deals, leaving little point in it continuing to bid.
“Various conditions surrounding the BDUK process, which we have discussed with the DCMS, effectively rule Fujitsu out of the competition for new areas,” said a spokesman.
“So while we remain supportive of the process and its objectives, we are not actively pursuing opportunities within it.
“Our focus now is very much on urban and city opportunities.”
Fujitsu had yet to win any of the contracts, as BT continued to sweep the board at the tender process. However, it was clear from early on that Fujitsu felt it was getting a raw deal.
Charges of favouritism for BT
For example, in Cumbria, Fujitsu didn’t even submit a completed bid after sources suggested BT was already a shoe-in.
When Computer Weekly questioned Liv Garfield, chief executive of BT Openreach, on the claims of favouritism in November, she said no such thing was happening.
“These are just bids and it is a complete matter of choice – choice for every buyer,” she said.
“I believe we weren’t meant to be the choice, but the others dropped out. I am not sure how we can then be criticised for it.”
A spokesman from the DCMS said with an average of one new project going through per week with BDUK, the department was pleased with the progress so far but admitted it was never going to be easy to have an entirely level playing field.
“The government is keen that there is as much competition as possible for these contracts but has always accepted that there are some projects which are not as commercially competitive due to the scale of work and infrastructure required,” he said.
“The government is confident that the strong framework put in place delivers projects that have real value for money.”
Today, BT confirmed it had won two further contracts to roll out broadband in Kent and Northamptonshire.
Kent will see BT put up almost £20m of investment to the roll-out, matched by almost £10m from central government and exactly £10m from the local council.
Northamptonshire will see £8m investment from BT, £4m from BDUK and £4m from the local council.