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Cumbria broadband scheme sends BT and Fujitsu back to drawing board

One of Britain’s superfast broadband pilot schemes has sent BT and Fujitsu back to the drawing board after neither was able to fulfil its broadband plan.

After 20 months of negotiation, Cumbria County Council said they had not met its plan to get 25Mbps-or-better broadband to 90 per cent of Cumbrian homes by 2015.

The other 10 per cent are intended to get at least 2Mbps – mostly in challenging rural locations – and the winning company stands to win up to £40m in subsidies from Broadband Development UK.

Rural broadband by EIFL/Flickr

Cumbria County Council was expected to chose one of the two remaining bidders last week, but instead rejected both tenders because they had not ‘completely fulfilled the original, and full, requirements of the procurement process’.

Cllr Elizabeth Mallinson, Cabinet member with lead for the Connecting Cumbria project told the North-West Evening Mail: “Although we have not identified a preferred supplier at this stage we have made significant progress in terms of our overall broadband strategy for Cumbria, both in this procurement process and in attracting public and private funding to help deliver Superfast Broadband across rural and urban Cumbria.”

“The Connecting Cumbria programme is a very complex initiative and one that we need to get right if we are to meet the needs and expectations of Cumbria’s communities and businesses.”

A council spokesman said the reasons for being rejected were different for each bid, but could not be revealed because they were commercially sensitive.

The council will pursue ‘an intense process of formal negotiation’ and hopes to make a final decision in September, he added.

BT Openreach told The Register it will continue to work with the council to win the tender, but Fujitsu described the decision as ‘unexpected’.

Mobile operator Everything Everywhere – owner of Orange and T-Mobile – has conducted trials of 4G mobile broadband in Cumbria using the controversial 1800MHz frequency band.

Residents of Cumbria’s isolated Duddon Valley were recently rescued from broadband disconnection when satellite broadband provider Bentley Walker stepped in after Cable & Wireless stopped a wireless broadband service.

Image: EIFL/Flickr