The Scottish Government yesterday published its plan to deliver a world-class digital infrastructure across the whole of Scotland by 2020, entitled 'Scotland's Digital Future – Infrastructure Action Plan'. Of most significance is the commitment to achieve an uplift in next-generation broadband (NGB) speeds for everyone in the country by 2015, with speeds of 40–80Mbps for between 85% and 90% of premises, which according to Analysys Mason could bring Scotland in line with other parts of the UK that are making similar investments in NGB infrastructure.
Iqbal Singh Bedi, Head of Analysys Mason in Scotland, said, "This plan demonstrates that the Scottish Government has risen to the challenge and is now starting to lead Scotland and the industry in the development of its own NGB infrastructure."
The plan also sets out a nationwide procurement strategy, on which Bedi commented, "We have advocated a national procurement for a long time as this has greater potential to benefit from economies of scale and achieve value for money, as well as to ensure a consistent implementation across Scotland."
The Welsh Government has also implemented a national procurement, under its flagship Next Generation Broadband for Wales (NGBW) initiative, which has Analysys Mason as its lead technical advisors. (The NGBW initiative includes similar rural, remote and difficult terrain to that in Scotland. The procurement is currently in the competitive dialogue stage.)
The Scottish Government has stated that it intends to produce a procurement strategy by March 2012, commence procurement by September 2012 and award the contract in the first half of 2013. "These are aggressive timescales," said Bedi, "that make it particularly important that the Scottish Government designs the procurement to run as smoothly as possible."
Matt Yardley, Partner at Analysys Mason, who is an expert on public policy broadband projects, commented that "Scotland can learn some very useful lessons from the BDUK process in England and Wales, and could quickly catch up with them if it makes the right choices for its implementation. It is becoming increasingly clear that fragmenting procurements to the local level is not proving as attractive to the market as some had expected, and the Scottish Government should factor this into its plans for the future."
In developing the national broadband infrastructure, Bedi advises that "The Scottish Government needs to consider the role of NGB infrastructure in the provision of connectivity to public sector organisations, to minimise the duplication of infrastructure in line with the McClelland recommendations." (See http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/06/15104329/0.)
There is a real possibility that operators could co-operate on a wholesale level to facilitate this.