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BBC awards broadcast network contract to BT

BT is awarded a seven-year, £100m plus contract to supply networking services to the BBC

The BBC has awarded a seven-year, £100m contract to supply a broadcast network to BT, ousting current provider Vodafone, as the corporation looks to make massive savings by capitalising on new technologies, among other things.

The internet technology-based network, which is set to go live in April 2017, will link all of the BBC’s sites in the UK – including 21 broadcasting centres and local radio stations – as well as connecting into its main overseas bureaux and partners for playout of its TV channels.

Operated by BT’s media services arm, BT Media and Broadcast, it will carry all audio, data and video traffic, as well as fixed-line telephony, integrated services digital network (ISDN) and broadband services.

The BBC said the service would be more efficient, flexible, and better able to support innovation across the broadcaster. It will be able to dial the network up and down to add extra services for major events, such as the Olympics, at a lower cost than currently. It will also be able to explore more data-hungry services such as Ultra HD (UHD) TV and 360-degree content without worrying about running up against capacity limitations.

BBC chief technology officer (CTO) Matthew Postgate said the project was an important step towards building an internet-fit BBC and would allow it to provide more interactive and personalised content for its audiences.

“At a time when the BBC faces serious financial challenges, it will also save us tens of millions of pounds so we can focus more of our money on the programmes and services for licence fee payers,” he said.

Core services procurement

The public procurement – which was first announced in April 2015 – was conducted under the BBC’s Aurora Programme, which was set up to manage the transition of the BBC’s core technology services following the expiry of a 10 year, £2bn contract with Atos (formerly Siemens Business Services). This is set to take place in 2017, with a number of other contracts still to be awarded between now and then.

The Aurora Programme will ultimately see the BBC’s IT functions grouped into individual service deals under a tower model, with an overarching service operations and management (Som) layer, to integrate service and commercial management and assurance of the different contracts.

The BBC reckons that such a multi-sourced approach will help it meet its goals around delivering more flexibility and value for money.

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Mark Wilson-Dunn, global vice-president of BT Media and Broadcast, said: “We are delighted by the BBC’s decision to choose us as their next generation broadcast network partner. Both of our organisations have a vital part to play in making the best use of advanced technology to support and enable the ever accelerating evolution of broadcast media.”

Incumbent Vodafone will remain involved with the BBC, operating a key datacentre, telephony services and additional connectivity in London. It will work closely with both the BBC and BT over the next 15 months to ensure a smooth transition.

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