DCMS fund backs West Sussex £50m fibre framework

County council becomes one of the first recipients of money from government scheme as it looks for provider to roll out connections to public sector-owned sites over the next two decades

Credit:  Rolf Vennenbernd/DPA/PA Images

With the help of central government cash, West Sussex County Council has launched a framework for the deployment of fibre connectivity infrastructure at local authority sites across the county. The deal, which could see other councils and public sector bodies obtaining fibre connections, could be worth in excess of £50m over the coming years.

The council currently offers IT services via a wide-area network, the provision of which is outsourced to Capita. It now intends to invest in its own fibre network infrastructure, with hardware deployed at numerous government buildings throughout the county. The council claims this will “improve both the value and flexibility” it derives from its networking set-up. 

The council said: “This infrastructure will consist of ducting and fibre optic cables connecting key locations across the county that can then be made available to West Sussex County Council and its delivery partners as a service, when and where required.”

It added: “[The] authority is seeking a sole service provider to provide a catalogue of services on a framework basis for a period of four years. These services include design, installation, support, and maintenance of dark-fibre connectivity circuits to a contracting authority’s sites on a long-term basis of at least 20 years.”

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The scope of the infrastructure needs will, initially, be defined by the requirements of the county council and the six district and borough councils in the area: Adur and Worthing; Arun; Chichester; Crawley; Horsham; and Mid Sussex. The first call-off contract issued once the framework is live will be geared to the number of connections that these seven entities need.

This call-off – which will cover the installation of the first stages of the network and its servicing and support for the next 20 years – will be worth an estimated £5.7m. The estimated value of the “optional services”, encompassing connections at additional council sites, that will be procured by the septet of councils during the coming years is £12m.

The intention is also that the framework will also be expanded to offer connectivity to the wider public sector, possibly including Brighton and Hove City Council. West Sussex County Council forecasts that the value of these connections will be around £35m, taking the total estimated value of the framework to £52.7m.

The deal is a “first wave exemplar project” for central government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) programme and, as such, is being part-funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Broadband Development UK programme. DCMS recently unveiled the LFFN scheme, which has set aside £190m to help fund public sector-led investments in fibre infrastructure.

Fibre has become something of a watchword for DCMS of late, with digital minister Matt Hancock often talking up his ambitions of a “full-fibre future” for the UK.

Sam Trendall

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