Altnets to fight BT monopoly of BDUK broadband cash
BT may not have it all its own way rolling out next generation broadband to UK consumers.
A group of competitor network suppliers met on Friday 20 July to discuss ways forward in the wake of the disastrous BDUK procurement process that saw only BT and Fujitsu left as possible bidders for up to £830m of taxpayers’ money.
The meeting attracted BeyonDSL, Cable & Wireless Worldwide, Calix, CityFibre Holdings, Entanet, Gigaclear, UK Broadband, Virgin Media and others who prefer not to be named now, as well as representatives from Birmingham City Council, and the Communications Managers Association (CMA). It was organised by Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), an activist lobby group for next generation broadband.
The so-called altnets plan to cooperate to present bids that compete with BT for BDUK money, which is being distributed via county councils’s broadband projects.
Some county councils are known to be angry and frustrated both at the delay caused by the BDUK process as well as the fact that it did not result in a genuinely competitive market. The BDUK procurement framework has still not been accepted by the European Commission’s competition authorities, putting any money disbursed at risk.
“Our analysis indicates that a large proportion of the BDUK funding set aside for state support of broadband roll-out will go to BT, but capacity limitations both in contracting and deployment will make the 2015 target difficult to reach,” INCA said in a statement.
Most of the attendees had been members of consortia that were invited to bid for BDUK money, but which fell away because of the absurdly high qualification criteria. They are now considering several business models that may provide an acceptable risk profile that will allow the lead company to attract funding.
They are also looking at how councils could structure their requests for proposals in such a way that giving everything to BT is not their only option.
A source close to the movement said the government had little chance of meeting its 2015 target of “the best broadband network in Europe” if it had to rely solely on BT. This was because BT didn’t have the manpower to do it by itself.
If the altnets can agree, councils will have “additional horsepower” to aid network builds as well as a more competitive environment that should give them “the biggest bang possible for their taxpayer’s buck”, he said.
Initial proposals will be discussed openly at the INCA seminar on state aid for broadband networks in London tomorrow. Two European Commission experts on state aid will show delegates how to liberate EU cash. Booking has been heavy, but there may be some spare seats. Anyone wishing to go should call INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett on 07770 896 534.