Market engagement day connects Somerset to potential broadband infrastructure providers

More than 32 prospective suppliers are due to attend a market engagement event in Taunton, in preparation for the tender for phase two of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme.

A market engagement event will be held in Taunton this Friday (4 December), as part of the procurement process for the second phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) superfast broadband programme which will take coverage to 95%.

More than 50 delegates from 32 suppliers are due to attend the event, to discuss the opportunity of connecting the remaining rural areas across Devon and Somerset. This gives suppliers the chance to discuss the requirements for phase 2 of the superfast rollout, ahead of the formal invitation to tender early next year. A wide range of technological solutions will be represented by the attending companies including fibre, wireless, mobile, back haul network and satellite.

The high-levels of attendance at this event reflects the growing competition in the UK market and increasing commercial interest in the CDS programme. It forms part of a major programme of engagement with the market for phase 2 of the CDS programme which has included over 15 face to face meetings with potential suppliers to date.

Phase 2 will build on phase 1 which is on track to deliver superfast broadband to around 90% of Devon and Somerset by the end of 2016 – including commercial deployments. The CDS partnership has to date connected more than 990 street cabinets to the fibre broadband network, which means that more than 225,000 premises are now in a position to access vastly improved broadband speeds

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for business inward investment and policy, said: “This is the biggest digital infrastructure build opportunity for rural communities in England.  We’re delighted that Phase 1 is currently ahead of the Government’s delivery target date of the end of 2016 and it’s critical that the phase 2 roll out allows us to reach the ultimate target date of 2020 for 100% coverage. This event is important as it will promote the opportunity to a wide range of suppliers and ensure we achieve a competitive tender process.  It will also help us shape our thinking on the most appropriate technological solutions for phase 2 which will involve some of the most technically challenging areas in the region.

“It is vital that communities in Devon and Somerset are interconnected, as well as being able to connect to the rest of the world. The future lies in digital and CDS is playing a key role in delivering such an environment.”

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for economy and growth for Devon County Council, said: “We are delighted by the response we’ve had and the range of technologies that are being represented by the businesses that have expressed an interest. We are looking for innovative solutions that can ensure we deliver the next phase as soon as we can, whilst providing excellent value to our taxpayers.”

CDS is seeking one or more suppliers to invest in phase 2, which will support the current funding in place which has come from the Government, local authorities in the CDS programme region and the Heart of the South West LEP.