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.
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.