31 January 2018
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) Procurement process is a key priority for Government and is being managed intensively by a specialist National Broadband Procurement Team in my Department.
Following detailed engagement with bidders through a competitive dialogue process, two bidders submitted their detailed solutions in September 2017 outlining their proposals to meet the NBP contractual requirements. Over the past weeks each bidder received comprehensive feedback on their submissions from the National Broadband Procurement Team outlining where improvements could be achieved and where concerns were identified. The Procurement Team advised that today (31 January) was the last day that bidders could raise any outstanding items to be addressed in the draft NBP contract. Once received, the NBP Procurement Team was prepared to consider these final issues and make any appropriate amendments to the tender documentation taking into consideration the key issues raised while ensuring that the draft contract retained the necessary governance and controls required to protect tax-payers' money.
My Department had informed bidders that they intended to issue an invitation to submit final tenders in the coming weeks once these amendments were finalised and agreed. This would signal that the process had moved towards the final stage.
One bidder, Eircom Limited (eir), has formally communicated to my Department that it is withdrawing from the procurement process. I understand their decision is driven by 'commercial, regulatory and governance' issues. This decision is ultimately a commercial matter for eir. The NBP procurement process was launched in December 2015 and eir actively engaged with the process since then. The company invested significant time and resources to the process and their withdrawal from the process at this late stage is regrettable.
Currently eir is rolling out high speed broadband, predominantly fibre to the home (FTTH), to over 300,000 premises in rural Ireland. This rollout is the subject of a binding agreement, whereby eir has committed to building high speed broadband infrastructure to serve these 300,000 premises. eir has reconfirmed its commitment to this commercial investment as well as their ongoing investment in broadband nationally and I welcome this.
The remaining bidder in the procurement process, the consortium comprising of Granahan McCourt, enet, SSE, John Laing Group plc, has reaffirmed its commitment to the successful conclusion of the NBP process.
My Department will continue to engage intensively with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the earliest possible achievement of the Government's objective of providing reliable high quality, high speed broadband to all premises in Ireland. When the procurement process reaches a satisfactory conclusion for Government, a contract will be awarded and the network rollout will commence.