Manchester seeks partners for £35m full fibre rollout

Combined authority wishes to install a network over which it has usage rights for 20 years

Credit: Frankie Roberto/CC BY 2.0

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has fired the starting gun on a potential £35m project to install a full fibre network across the region.

The authority has issued a contract notice seeking to “procure the design, implementation, maintenance, and support” of a full-fibre network to serve the needs of public-sector entities across Greater Manchester. The contract will consist of a two-lot framework agreement, with one supplier to be appointed to each lot.

The first lot will address the needs of councils representing five areas in the northern half of the region: Wigan; Bolton; Bury; Rochdale; and Oldham. The second lot will cover borough and city councils in Manchester, Salford, Trafford, and Stockport.

Within these lots, each of the nine authorities that make up GMCA will be able to award call-off contracts serving their respective connectivity needs.

The total value of the contract across the two lots is estimated to be as much as £35m.

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In addition to the rollout and ongoing support of the network, included in the deal will be “20-year right of use of dark fibre connectivity, or dark fibre virtual equivalent circuits”.

Dark fibre refers to cabling that has been laid, but not yet connected to a network.

Maintaining right of use of the unlit sections of the network will “will provide unlimited capacity dedicated fibre connectivity to as many [local authority] public sites and assets in the region”, GMCA said.

“The LAs will continue to be able to procure their WAN connectivity through existing suppliers when required,” it added. “These services will be delivered over the connectivity achieved through this contract.”

Once the network is up and running, it will enable 1,300 “assets” across 600 public-sector buildings to be connected. 

The implementation is being supported by money from the government’s Local Full Fibre Network programme. LFFN, which is run by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and has a total funding pot of £190, last year picked 13 UK cities and regions to receive its first tranche of funding. Between them, those recipients were given £94.5m – with Manchester’s £23.8m award being by far the biggest.

Bids for the framework are open until 13 May, with a four-year contract due to come into effect on 30 September.


Sam Trendall

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