BT set to win £40m broadband contract for Suffolk - days after securing landmark Norfolk deal

PUBLISHED: 06:30 17 September 2012

County councillor Ann Steward and deputy leader Ian Mackie register online for the EDP-backed Better Broadband for Norfolk campaign at the Forum. Picture: Denise Bradley

County councillor Ann Steward and deputy leader Ian Mackie register online for the EDP-backed Better Broadband for Norfolk campaign at the Forum. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant 2012

Technology giant BT is set to win a £40 million contract to bring better broadband to Suffolk – just days after a similar landmark deal was revealed for Norfolk.

The only other bidder to bring superfast broadband to Suffolk by early 2015 has confirmed it has pulled out of the race.

This means BT, which has its research and development centre at Adastral Park, Martlesham Heath, will be named as the preferred bidder by Suffolk County Council’s cabinet next Monday.

The company had been one of two bidders, along with Fujitsu, for the contract which should see superfast broadband rolled out across the county by early 2015.

But a Fujitsu spokesman said this weekend: “We are not bidding for the Suffolk contract.”

BT is also due to be confirmed as the preferred bidder for Norfolk’s broadband services today.

The two imminent deals are viewed as vital to the future development of East Anglia, and it is hoped they will meet the demand for better broadband services across the region.

More than 15,000 homes and businesses registered their support for the EDP’s Say Yes to Better Broadband campaign – proving the commercial demand for the upgrade.

It is estimated the Better Broadband for Norfolk project will create 1,337 jobs and add £401m to the county’s economy during the next 10 years.

Norfolk County Council says the BT tie-up will mean more than 80pc of businesses and homes will have access to superfast broadband speeds, classified as 24 megabits per second and above.

It will also see every single property in Norfolk able to access a minimum of a basic broadband service (at least 2Mbps) by June 2015.

This includes the 44,000 properties currently in broadband “not spots”, with no access.

The authority has secured £15m of government funding to match its own financial stake in the scheme.

In Suffolk, more than 12,000 homes and businesses registered for a campaign backed by the East Anglian Daily Times – sister paper of the EDP – to demonstrate there was an appetite for broadband.

Norfolk and Suffolk county councils have been working together on their broadband bids – but officials have always emphasised they are separate bids.

The authorities have never ruled out using different broadband providers.

One element that is still the subject of negotiations between BT and Suffolk County Council is whether the superfast broadband speeds will reach every property in the county – or whether it will reach 97pc or 98pc with a few isolated properties having to rely on other delivery methods.

Fujitsu, which has worked with Virgin Media in some parts of the country, had been looking at bringing fibre optic cable direct to most properties.

This would have taken longer to fully implement, but would have given faster speeds.

However it would have been impractical for a higher proportion of rural properties – which would have broadband delivered by wi-fi or other methods.

A spokeswoman for BT said the company could not comment on the Suffolk bid while negotiations were still under way at the county council.

And the council is also unable to comment on the bid while the procurement process is under way.

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