The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has issued a £10m tender for suppliers with potential solutions to cover the remaining five per cent of the UK which does not have any access to ‘superfast' broadband.
According to the government, ‘superfast' broadband means access to download speeds of a minimum of 24 Mbps.
Through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a subsidy of DCMS, ‘superfast' broadband should be available to 90 per cent of premises in the UK by 2015, while all UK premises should have access to basic broadband with download speeds of a minimum of 2 Mbps.
In June 2013, the government announced a further £250m of funding, which would be locally matched, to support increased coverage of ‘superfast' broadband to 95 per cent of premises in the UK by the end of 2017.
DCMS found that it needed new solutions in order to extend coverage beyond 95 per cent, so the government announced an additional £10m competitive fund to test innovative solutions to deliver ‘superfast' broadband services to as many of the unserved, hard-to-reach areas of the UK as possible.
As part of the Official Journal of the European Union notice for this fund, DCMS is asking tenderers to propose technical, commercial and operational solutions which can provide the suitable broadband speeds for the remaining five per cent of the UK, and to propose methods by which the solution can be tested for viability.
It said there were three approaches to providing a solution that it was particularly interested in receiving a response for.
The first lot is for "testing a technology which is technically known to work but where it is currently unknown or uncertain whether it can be used as a viable solution for deploying ‘superfast' broadband in the remaining unserved areas".
This could include, but is not limited to: fibre to the pole, kerb or basement, making further incremental fibre upgrades to parts of the existing copper network, fibre to the premise (FTTH), fixed wireless access including 4G LTE mobile spectrum for fixed broadband, or satellite technology.
The second lot is for "testing novel operating models that increase investment levels through standardisation or aggregation reducing barriers to the market delivering superfast broadband solutions in the remaining unserved area".
An example of this is to upgrade disparate smaller networks to a common standard, then aggregate this into a larger, more viable network.
The third lot is for testing whether there are innovative public or private funding models which can be effective at leveraging new financing investment to allow solutions to be delivered in the remaining areas.
Culture secretary Maria Miller (pictured) said that the government now "needs to focus on the hardest to reach communities".
"These pilots will be instrumental in helping us understand how to overcome the challenges of reaching the most remote areas of the UK, and I hope to see a wide range of suppliers coming forward with innovative proposals," she stated.
Tenderers are permitted to submit as many tenders as they wish, provided each response contains a different solution.
The two year contract is covered by the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), and DCMS said that it could award funding to a range of solutions - probably between five and 10. It expects funding awards for individual service providers to be between £500,000 and £3.3m.