Three lots to bid for in the Scottish R100 superfast broadband project

The Scottish R100 project is being fleshed out piece by piece and just like all the other broadband projects since the BDUK process started there is the procurement cycle to go through and shortlisting of bids to ensure that those picking the winner can weigh up the pros and cons for all the different entrants to this end the R100 – Procurement of NGA Infrastructure document[1] has been published. The GBP600 million contact is set to be split into three different lots, and operators can bid on any number of them with the key point being a three build cycle that will end 31st December 2021 with the aim to deliver superfast broadband to as many premises in each of the lots. The contracts have a further 7 year service period, hence the ten year long contracts.

  • Lot 1 – The North, comprising Highlands and Islands, Angus, Aberdeen and Dundee.

    Estimated size of the intervention area is 99,288 premises with funding of GBP384 million allocated. An important distinction is that this contract will require the winner to deliver Gigabit connectivity to a number of named locations or areas, there is no indication of how many of the 99,288 this will comprise but we’d not expect a high figure, but would be nice to be surprised.

  • Lot 2 – Central Area, comprising central Scotland and Fife. There are some 53,570 white premises with GBP83 million of funding
  • Lot 3 – South Area, comprising Scottish Borders and Galloway and is 26,090 premises expected to need intervention with GBP133 million allocated.

The funding split indicates a willingness to spend an average of GBP3,867 per premise in the northern lot, GBP1,549 in the most urban lot which is the central area and GBP5,097 per premise in the southern lot.

This is considerably more than people have seen for other BDUK contracts and represents a reality that has been talked about many times that as you increase the distances covered and population density decreases the cost of providing broadband increases and while no technology steering is provided other than faster than 30 Mbps (and some Gigabit in one lot) there does appear to scope for a lot more full fibre than the current phase given the budget size.

Of course any bid that was to try for full fibre to all of say the southern area will need to do its homework, since 8,000 premises with a cost GBP14,000 each to reach would use up GBP112m of the funding leaving a lower budget of GBP1,305 per premise for the remaining 16,090 and is the perfect illustration of why all the BDUK projects kept the value for money versus number of premises under tight control, since it is very easy to run out of money and fall well short of the eventual goal.

As with some other R100 pronouncements there is nothing to guarantee 100% coverage at superfast speeds, only once the final bids have been signed into a contract and coverage details emerge will we get a better idea plus some idea of what level of contribution the commercial partner will be bringing to the table.


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