Ian Georgeson

Bechtel joins CityFibre gigabit broadband roll-out scheme

Engineering, construction and project management firm supports step-change in mobilisation of build projects worth £1.5bn

In a significant boost to its plan to extend its full-fibre gigabit broadband network across the UK, CityFibre, the country’s third national digital infrastructure platform provider, has appointed engineering, construction and project management company Bechtel to assist with its scaling efforts, providing people and expertise to aid acceleration and delivery.

In June 2020, the former altnet turned network major announced a three-year recruitment and training programme to provide up to 10,000 people with jobs upgrading its digital infrastructure to be fit for purpose for the modern age. In the full-fibre roll-out, CityFibre is awarding construction contracts worth up to £1.5bn as a total bundle in in the coming months as it begins mobilisation across 29 towns and cities.

The background to the programme is the UK government’s desire to accelerate the delivery of gigabit-capable broadband across the country by 2025, a legislative journey that began in January 2020. The 2020 Budget statement confirmed the government’s commitment to invest a total of £5bn to roll out full-fibre broadband across the country.

Bechtel is best known for delivering major infrastructure projects across the globe and has extensive experience in the communications infrastructure market. It has overseen metro fibre and fibre to the premises (FTTP) roll-outs for AT&T, Verizon, XO and Google Fibre in the US and the Viatel Cerce Pan-European Network.

Bechtel has more than seven decades of experience in the UK market, managing major construction contracts including the Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1.

CityFibre said Bechtel has not been used as an outsource provider but instead has been contracted to work as part of CityFibre’s organisational structure. CityFibre is beginning to onboard Bechtel’s teams immediately, fully integrating them within its organisational structure with the intention to reach optimal productivity in each location in the shortest possible time.

This will focus on implementing a consistent approach to the mobilisation and management of construction partners at scale, in which it has vast experience. Bechtel will also support CityFibre as it introduces new processes to ensure the network architecture is adhered to and that quality standards are maintained when deploying at scale.

“The demand for world-class digital infrastructure deployments from the government, Ofcom and crucially our current and prospective customers, is increasing by the day,” said Greg Mesch, chief executive at CityFibre. “Bechtel’s expertise in the delivery of national infrastructure projects will complement our existing teams and ensure we can rapidly increase the number of parallel build projects, while still delivering the high quality of network demanded by our customers and theirs.

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“Delivering full-fibre nationwide by 2025 is a critical target and a huge undertaking. We are determined to be a major contributor to this target. This landmark partnership with Bechtel is another important demonstration of how CityFibre is doing everything to ensure delivery and maximise our contribution while helping to ensure a healthy and competitive digital infrastructure market.”

John Williams, Bechtel’s UK infrastructure managing director, added: “We are excited to partner with CityFibre to help make real their ambition to transform digital infrastructure across the UK. We will be bringing our skills in rapid mobilisation and large-scale infrastructure delivery to the team.

“Our agreement with CityFibre is part of a deliberate strategy to diversify and align our UK business with the emerging growth sectors of the economy.”

The first wave of construction contract awards under CityFibre’s Accelerated Tenders Award Programme are expected in the coming weeks. By the end of 2021, it is anticipated that network construction will be under way in more than 100 towns and cities across the UK.

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