Broadband News

Scottish R100 contract signing not expected until end of the year

The Scottish R100 was very ambitious with its original aim to bring superfast broadband to every property that does not have it and had budgeted £600 million (£150 million a year for four years) to deliver this.

Alas there has been a number of delays in the procurement process and with delays this means that other elements have been changing leading to further delays as those taking part in the procurement process ask for more time to take on board changes and what effect this will have on their bids.

The situation as it stands today seems to be that while the preferred bidder may be known in September 2019, the official contract will not be expected until the end of 2019. So if the winner signs in December 2019, we would expect to see the first premises benefiting in the summer of 2020 and looking at the figures today the project will need to deliver to 175,000 premises by 31st March 2022 if the by the end of 2021 promise previously made by Fergus Ewing MSP is to be met.

Question S5W-23670
Stewart Stevenson;
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the procurement for the Reaching 100% programme.

Paul Wheelhouse: We are determined that R100 programme delivers the best possible value and benefit for Scotland and have designed a procurement process to achieve this. Key to doing so is to ensure a highly competitive process that results in the £600 million funding for this programme delivering on our commitment to provide access to superfast broadband to every home and business in Scotland.

The procurement has therefore been structured, following internal and external advice and statutory and regulatory requirements, with defined dialogue cycles and submission dates. An Invitation to Participate in Dialogue was issued last Spring which resulted in four bidders being short-listed. Following the initial round of dialogue, a request for an extension of six weeks was granted to enable bidders to prepare initial submissions. Subsequently, a complaint was lodged, by one of the bidders, with the National Competency Centre, (managed by the UK Government as State Aid leads) citing a breach of the Code of Conduct by another bidder. This was resolved satisfactorily but resulted in a necessary pause in the procurement with a corresponding six week delay.

Ahead of the next key milestone we were required to provide a revised intervention area (listing all eligible premises). This update was necessary to allow the final stages of dialogue to be based on the most up-to-date picture, taking into consideration commercial coverage plans and changes to planned Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) deployment. Additional premises were added back into the R100 intervention area, in part due to direction from UK Ministers that future Gainshare activity be focused on full fibre solutions. This resulted in greater than expected changes across the country; and bidders requested extensions to enable them to remain in the process and provide competitive bids. We considered these requests carefully and balanced the wish to adhere to our timetable against the risks associated with not allowing bidders more time and our determination to provide the best possible outcome for Scotland.

We have therefore provided the bidders with the extension sought, giving them more time to remodel their solutions. This will see the procurement timeline extended, with the appointment of a preferred bidder or bidders anticipated by the end of September 2019 with contract signature by the end of the year.

Full detail of question on R100

The delay caused by the re-jigging needed when it was found out that gainshare spending should be full fibre focused possibly tells us that the firms still involved in the procurement process were working towards a mixture of technologies probably a mix of full fibre and fixed wireless but have had to slightly adjust their plans. Though given the 100% full fibre ambition that is down the road for 2033 any project that does deploy fixed wireless in 2022 to meet a superfast target means further work will be needed in a few years.

Based on previous information while the R100 was originally talked about as a 100% superfast project, our understanding is that further smaller contracts may be needed to reach the full 100%, which raises the prospect that the cost per premises for the intervention may be even higher than the around £3,000 per property being proposed already.

A small bit of housekeeping, we had this news on Friday afternoon but due to some evening network hardware work and the news on Saturday, publication has been delayed until Monday 10th June.

Comments

Explains a lot, e.g. why enabled DP's ready to trot have come to a grinder around rural Scotland. Keeping powder dry it's called, so you get a perceived max. performance from the successful bidder. And "There can only be one"...

Dreadful farcical mess of a situation that benefits no one.

  • Webbas
  • 3 months ago

I think that one of the worst aspects of the delays is leaving people up in the air / hanging on, without any information of what they receive, if anything.

  • brianhe
  • 3 months ago

Paul Wheelhouse: "...<snip> a complaint was lodged, by one of the bidders, with the National Competency Centre, (managed by the UK Government as State Aid leads) citing a breach of the Code of Conduct by another bidder. <snip>..."

Out of curiosity who complained about who?

  • baby_frogmella
  • 3 months ago

The lack of any intermediate solutions has created a significant delay to broadband improvement on those rural exchanges left-out of previous improvements. Whilst the best areas of Scotland (and rUK) just got better, many exchanges have been left at sub-21CN, and worse still, have horrendously contended backhauls off those exchanges that employ dubious microwave links.

This farce just means rural Scottish business die-back further as ever-increasingly onerous burdons on real-time accounting, MTD, etc. etc. are placed on them by central government. Zero tax-receipts fairly soon!!!

  • p6resthome
  • 3 months ago

It would be great to know who actually complained about who.. Quite annoying it has led to this delay.

  • brusuth
  • 3 months ago

MaxADSL in Struan, Isle of Skye, via one of the "dubious microwave links" referred to by p6resthome (hello, Glendale! :-) ), previously fairly solid at around 4Mbps, mysteriously dropped to sub-1Mbps three or four months ago and Openreach still can't say why despite "fault-finding investigations".

The medium being an obsolete technology, fixing it is definitely NOT rocket science, yet users are still paying around the same service charges for this wet string technology as some VDSL2 users in large urban areas elsewhere in the UK.

Water ingress to an equipment cabinet somewhere (again!!)...?

  • NorthSkye
  • 3 months ago

I have no more confidence in R100 than I did in previous rural broadband efforts. The village of Crianlarich right on the A82 was supposed to have gotten FTTC 3 years ago, then on a 6 monthly basis, the deployment got postponed by 6 months - sighting costs. Personally, I believe that telcos will simply seek to do as little as they can for the current contract value pending availability of future dosh. All sorts of excuses have been given over 3 years and in 3 years time, Crianlarich might get (by then) totally obsolete FTTC !! They put ADSL2+ in the exch, but backhaul cant cope!

  • veletron
  • 3 months ago

@Veletron same with Essendy. As we near the end of each 6 month period, the date goes back another 6 months. Reliably. Oh, and Madderty too, even tough Madderty has actually been cabled for FTTP.

  • jimwillsher
  • 3 months ago

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