The Bristol Network to Bolster SMEs

ITS Technology Group and Net Support UK have announced they have signed a contract with Bristol City Council to commercialise the council’s BNET duct infrastructure. The joint venture (JV) will trade as BNET Ultra Ltd, but the network will be marketed under ‘The Bristol Network’ brand and will deliver affordable ultrafast broadband services to local businesses.

Under the JV, the two altnets will have full responsibility to manage and maintain The Bristol Network, which comprises approximately 76km of duct across the city, during the lifetime of the 20 year concession agreement. Net Support will provide a retail route to market via its subsidiary Spectrum Internet, and ITS will deliver on the wholesale channel.

Stephen Hilton, Director of Futures at Bristol City Council, said: “Bristol City Council had the foresight to buy the network of ducting from a cable TV operator more than fifteen years ago. Now, after a programme of upgrades and maintenance, we have created a robust, symmetrical, high capacity network. It is the duct element of this asset that has allowed for the 20 year concession agreement which will deliver in a number of areas. Most importantly, it will benefit the citizens of Bristol by generating revenue which will help to deliver better council services across the city; and the increased availability of high speed broadband will benefit the incubator of SMEs and start-up businesses that have chosen to locate in our great city.”

In addition to generating income, the concession will see the council receive guaranteed payments over the 20 years which will be used to reinvest into local public projects.

Roy Shelton, ITS’ Group CEO said: “The commercialisation of this network represents a huge opportunity for Bristol. By increasing the availability of connectivity across the city, businesses of all shapes and sizes stand to benefit from the plethora of applications that this home-grown ultrafast digital infrastructure enables. With the Government’s BDUK voucher scheme having drawn to a close, affordable broadband is more important than ever to avoid further digital discrimination. This is the second commercialisation contract we have secured, as ITS signed a concession agreement with Hammersmith and Fulham Council in February 2014. We are looking forward to delivering super and ultrafast services to our wholesale partners across the network.”

Giles Phelps, Managing Director of Net Support UK said: “We understand the local market well having been one of the preferred suppliers to the BDUK Voucher Scheme in Bristol. This has given us significant insights into the appetite for affordable ultrafast broadband. This joint venture is a collaboration that is larger than the sum of its parts, as each party will deliver on different elements of the contract while being aligned in our thinking. This will also give increased capacity to scale rapidly.”

The existing network footprint forms a near ‘figure of eight’ across the city, with only small gaps in the north and south. In addition to the active 76km there are a further 60km of unused duct, which the JV has plans to re-activate and extend to more than 180km.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine