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Norfolk County Council has started work on a four-year, £20m network infrastructure upgrade spanning council buildings, schools and libraries across the county.
The upgrade will be run by Capita-owned public services network supplier Updata. Under the terms of the first contract under the framework, worth £10m, it will install and manage a wide area network (WAN) and a local area network (LAN), as well as mobile and unified communications.
Updata said the upgrade would give the council a “more robust and cost-effective ICT infrastructure”, improving both operational and service performance.
A key element of the framework will be an improved network to support education in Norfolk, giving schools access to reliable superfast broadband services, and internet filtering services to give them more granular control. Elsewhere, an upgraded multichannel contact centre, built on a new utility-as-a-service platform, will support citizen engagement.
The framework will be available to other Norfolk councils and NHS services, as well as some authorities in neighbouring counties.
“This contract will reduce costs and enhance IT services for public sector staff and for schools, allowing them to work flexibly and deliver the best possible service to people in Norfolk,” said the council’s head of procurement, Al Collier.
“Other public sector organisations may also take advantage of the framework, further benefiting people across the region.”
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Updata sales and marketing director Richard Masterson added: “We have vast experience of working with local councils and understand the specific demands and challenges they face in delivering services.
“We are committed to providing the best network services and helping the council adopt new technologies, allowing staff to offer a high standard of service for the benefit of Norfolk’s residents and businesses.”
Additionally, Updata has enlisted Anywhere SIM, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), to supply national roaming SIMs to 4,500 council employees.
National roaming allows users to roam onto the strongest available signal – in Anywhere SIM’s case this could be EE, O2 or Vodafone – theoretically helping users get around the problem of mobile network not-spots, a big problem for users in more rural parts of places like Norfolk.
In late 2014 national roaming was explored by the UK government as a preferred option to address the not-spot problem, although the proposal was dropped when the four UK mobile network operators – which spoke out against the proposals at the time – agreed to cough up £5bn to address the issue themselves.
Even though national roaming has been shelved as official government policy, a number of national roaming products have since come to market with some success.
Lancashire-based Anywhere SIM launched in June 2015 with a number of budget products aimed at people likely to experience poor mobile coverage.
It is also attempting to break into the public sector mobile market, providing bespoke billing options, aggregated bundles for voice, SMS and data, mobile analytics and personal call tagging.