Cumbria issues £121m tender for broadband and managed IT contracts

Cumbria County Council has issued a tender for two projects worth £121m over five years

Cumbria County Council has issued a tender for two projects worth £121m over five years, one to supply a next generation broadband network and the other IT services to the UK's most sparsely populated county.

It said that it could seek to use the council's private network as the "spine" through which to connect residential and business services at a minimum of 2Mbps, the current national universal service commitment advocated by the central government.

"The project must support the needs of rural communities keen to make their own contribution," it said. "Special provision is made for this in the BDUK funding being made available for next generation network access (NGA) pilots."

The council is using the managed IT contract (Lot 1), worth up to £59.4m, to drive the network acquisition (Lot 2), worth up to £61.6m. The precise inter-operating model between the winners of lots 1 and 2 will be explored and determined through the competitive dialogue process, it said.

The network contract is in two parts: provision of a wholesale broadband network (Accessible Cumbria) (£44.0m), and a managed enterprise network service for the council (£15.4m).

"Partner organisations" such as police, health, and teaching bodies could together add £110m to the contract value. Bidders can bid for either or both lots.

The managed IT contract covers an average of 40 change projects a year that cover finance, HR, payroll, social care and customer service.

The council intends to emphasise virtualisation and knowledge management over the next three years. Beyond that it will look at virtualisation of desktops and servers as a stepping stone on to its ultimate goal of "utility computing".

The council wants the wholesale broadband network to deliver "optimum geographic coverage, aiming for 100%", at a minimum speed of 2Mbps. It must be "open to all service and communications providers on a non-discriminatory basis" and deliver the greatest access speeds (data throughput) to as many businesses and consumers as possible.

"The contractor will be expected to work with a county council approved supply chain to assist community groups to secure a connectivity upgrade for very rural areas," it said.

The tenders calls for the network, partly funded by the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), to be built within 30 to 36 months, with open wholesale access guaranteed for at least seven years.

"The contractor will be expected to own and manage the risks associated with developing and operating a wholesale broadband network, including but not limited to take-up risk. It is therefore anticipated that the contractor will either have a retail capability, or will partner with retailer businesses," it said.

The contractor will also provide logically separated network connectivity and ancillary services to Cumbria's enterprise managed ICT service and connect offices, schools, libraries and other premises, and potentially police, hospitals and clinics, fire and rescue service locations.

"Establishment of a flexible contract open to other public sector bodies is paramount," Cumbria said. "The potential use of that network, to act as a spine for superfast broadband for communities across Cumbria is also a possibility."

Deadline for replies is 5 May.

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