MoD signs £73m BT deal to address ‘connectivity poverty’ across defence

Ministry retains telecoms firm for five year contract intended to fix existing issues resulting from a lack of consistent and reliable internet access, while also allowing use of new technologies

The Ministry of Defence has signed a major long-term contract with BT through which it hopes to address the issue of “connectivity poverty” across the defence sector.

The ministry entered into a five-year engagement with the telecoms firm on 20 March, newly published commercial documents reveal. The stated value of the deal is £73.3m.

The text of the contract reveals that reliable and consistent internet access across the sector is currently seen as a significant problem by the MoD.

“Defence suffers from ‘connectivity poverty’ across the estate at present,” the document said. “Current provision of internet connectivity is sub-optimal with areas that are ungoverned, incoherent and a piecemeal approach that introduces significant impediments to security, efficiency [and] economies of scale, service assurance, digital agility, and commercial compliance.”

The contract covers the provision by PT of “enterprise-wide internet capability, covering multiple defence sites, and provided as a managed service”.

The agreement adds that BT is required to provide Gigabit-grade connectivity – equating to download speeds of 1Gb per second – across all sites, while offering “scalable bandwidth” to support locations with particularly high traffic. The network is expected to contain inherent security tools offering protection from malware and other intrusions and threats.

The telecoms firm must also enable “single sign-on utilising Gov WiFi and public sector guest WiFi”, as well as providing the “ability to support ruggedised environments”.

“The service must provide easy access to users,” the contract added. “Access must be provided using current standards allowing for fixed and wireless connections. Any method of connection to the system, and onward access to the internet, must meet all accessibility needs. The capability must maintain 99% availability.”

The agreement ultimately aims to address the lack of acceptable basline levels connectivity identified by the ministry – as well as allowing defence bodies to take advantage of new and emerging technologies in the years ahead.

“Through increased WiFi coverage comes the ability to transform and exploit automation, artificial intelligence, and human learning via access to the internet,” the contract said. “This increased effectiveness leads to improved ability by the workforce to adapt and change to business demands in an efficient and cost-effective fashion, not least through modernised training, education, administration, and routine unit management. In the long term, the [MoD] intends that the entire estate, including offices, hangars, recreational facilities, and single living accommodation, has coverage with an effective and efficient internet access capability.”

Sam Trendall

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