Questions and answers to help explain the procurement process that was followed in 2020.
Find answers here
The announcement of these contracts refers to “procurement”, would it not have been quicker to simply appoint new contractors to deliver these contracts?
Rules around the use of public money are, quite rightly, very strict. These are large contracts, involving significant sums from local, regional and national government and require that we comply with UK procurement law by undertaking a tendering process that provides a fair environment for any and all interested parties to bid to undertake the work.
Length of process
The previous contracts were cancelled towards the end of September 2019, why did it take until December 2020 to procure new contractors?
From the point that the previous contracts were terminated, CDS has had to undertake three significant pieces of work.
Firstly, we carried out an Open Market Review (OMR) to establish where telecoms companies active in our region intended to cover commercially. This was essential to ensure that the procurement process would deliver coverage to premises for whom there was no coverage planned.
Secondly, we engaged with a wide range of telecoms providers to understand their appetite for carrying out work under the new contracts – a process known as Early Market Engagement.
Finally, we undertook the procurement process itself – a process that has a large number of pre-defined steps that have to be followed, with mandatory time periods for many of these steps.
Who was involved?
Who was involved in making the decisions on these contracts?
Somerset County Council is the accountable body for the Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme, a partnership of local authorities, the Heart of the SW LEP and BDUK.
The procurement process was led by Devon County Council’s Procurement Team. External advisors supported the internal team providing technical, legal and commercial expertise.
The Department for Culture Media and Sports Building Digital UK (BDUK) team were involved throughout the process, with the BDUK Assurance Board signing off the contracts following legal, commercial and value for money assessments.
The National Competence Centre has also approved each contract as state aid compliant under the National Broadband Scheme 2016.
Given the collapse of the previous contracts, what makes you believe that these contracts will deliver the intended coverage?
The three companies chosen to deliver these new contracts are based in or adjacent to the CDS region, they have considerable experience of building in the CDS region and are familiar with the differing kinds of terrain.
Between them, they have already built a similar volume of premises to that stipulated in the new contracts and have identified over 150 staff who will work on all aspects of the work.
Through this prior activity, they have now established mature working relationships with local planning and highways teams. Furthermore, they have developed relationships with the CDS team and communities across the region. They also all have experience in delivering connectivity through government-funded projects.
Who are the companies that will be delivering these new contracts?
Airband Community Internet, Wessex Internet and Truespeed.
Which parts of the region will each provider be covering?
Airband will be expanding its full fibre coverage into rural areas of Somerset West and Taunton, parts of Sedgemoor, East Devon, as well as areas of Mid Devon, South Hams and Teignbridge.
Truespeed will be working in Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Mendip and part of Sedgemoor, while Wessex Internet will deliver in rural communities of South Somerset.
What track record does each provider have in delivering these kinds of contracts?
Between them, they have already built over 41,000 premises in the CDS region, a similar volume of premises to that stipulated in the new contracts.
How well do these new providers know the area?
The three companies chosen to deliver these new contracts are either based in or adjacent to the CDS region, they have considerable experience of building in the CDS region and are familiar with the differing kinds of terrain.
They have ongoing relationships with local authorities, parish councils, local planning and highways teams and the CDS team itself.
Do these companies have the skills and people to deliver these contracts?
This has been evaluated as part of the bidding process and each provider has been required to produce a contracted mobilisation plan.
The successful bidders have identified over 150 staff who will work on all aspects of the work. They also have mature working relationships with sub-contractors and local supply chains.
How many new properties will these new contracts provide connections to?
In total, the new contracts will deliver connectivity to an additional 56,396 premises that currently do not have access to a connection of 30Mbs or higher. This figure represents an increase of around 20% over previous contracts.
Whilst bidders indicated which premises their bid would cover, these will all remain subject to survey and planning, and further change can still occur during the build stages. Confirmation of the intended coverage at a premises level will form part of the mobilisation stages for all six contracts, and we would expect this to be published within the first few months of 2021.
The coverage is relatively evenly distributed across the 6 lot areas. Broadly speaking, each district council area will benefit from between a 7% – 12% increase in the new coverage.
How long will it take to deliver all of these new contracts?
Work will commence at the beginning of 2021, with all contracts due to be complete in 2024.
Each bidder has provided a delivery plan for each lot that they are covering. During the first quarter of 2021, these plans will be finalised, allowing us to communicate when communities can expect to be surveyed, when build will start in their area and when they might expect to be able to order a service.
Whilst any engineering project can suffer delays beyond the control of contractors, we are expecting our new delivery partners to provide forecasts to communities by quarters and to update both the CDS team and communities on that basis.
Will this new coverage all be fibre or will wireless be used?
All six contracts will be delivered using fibre to the premise.
At the end of these contracts how many premises in the CDS region will or will not have access to superfast?
1,058,451 premises will have access to connections at speeds of 30 Mbs or higher. This will represent 96.18% of the 1,100, 495 premises in the CDS region.
42,044 premises will yet to have access to connections at speeds of 30 Mbs or higher. This will represent 3.82% of the 1,100, 495 premises in the CDS region.
If you are not covered, there are three main ways in which additional coverage can be achieved in the CDS region, alongside the new contracts.
Firstly, the government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme provides funding for communities to commission their own solutions. CDS is already supporting an increasing number of communities that have chosen to go down this route and are happy to provide support and advice on whether this is a viable approach for your community. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Secondly, the UK Fibre Programme (sometimes known variously as the Outside In programme or F20) will launch early in 2021. This scheme is the prime vehicle which government will be using to deliver on its target of full fibre nationwide.
Finally, an increasing number of providers are announcing expanded commercial coverage across the CDS region.
What happens next and how can I stay informed?
All three new providers submitted a mobilisation plan as part of their bid submission. These will be enacted from the beginning of 2021, in partnership with the CDS team, and during the first quarter of the year. At the end of this period, CDS will be able to provide information on where and when the new contracts will deliver.
To stay up-to-date you should keep checking this website, sign-up for our newsletter, look out for information from your parish council or contact us.