The BBC has posted a tender worth up to £230m for the overhaul of its backbone network infrastructure with the intention of appointing a single supplier to fulfil a minimum seven-year contract.
The tender outlines the BBC's goal to have high capacity core network connectivity between the corporation's different sites.
The successful supplier will be required to provide all the connections that support broadcast signals and enterprise IT networks.
The BBC explained that the contract winner will be expected to deliver these services, among others, on an initial contract of seven years with an expansion of a further three years if needed.
"The chosen supplier will also be required to supply a range of standard telecoms products and services to any specified site," the BBC said.
"These will include (but are not limited to) permanent and temporary private circuits, direct exchange lines, ISDN lines and ADSL services.
"This will not include the enterprise IT local area networks, mobile telephony and data or internal telephony services which will be part of a separate procurement."
The successful supplier also is required to integrate with the BBC's adoption of the so-called tower model.
Found in other public sector organisations, the tower model is a government-created approach aimed at providing services using multiple components from different suppliers.
These components and suppliers are managed by a single in-house or contracted service integration manager, although in the BBC's case this will involve coordinating a tower model with an "internal service operations management organisation".
The idea of the tower model is to avoid public sector organisations being stuck in lengthy and bespoke contracts reliant on a single supplier, as well as reduce the amount of outsourcing across the public sector.
A BBC spokesperson told V3 that the broadcaster is increasingly moving towards the tower model in a bid to be more agile and flexible in the way it procures and manages IT systems.
However, with the potential to last 10 years, the connectivity contract is arguably an example of the long-term deal that the tower model was designed to avoid.
The BBC spokesperson added that the tender will lead to one of the organisation's longer contracts owing to the sheer scale of overhauling significant parts of the BBC's backbone network, which requires a "longer relationship" with the successful supplier.
However, other organisations in the public sector have struggled to find success with the tower model.
Many public sector departments were still locked into lengthy contracts when the tower model was launched, which made adoption difficult without hitting stumbling blocks.
The government has also moved away from the tower model, instead announcing ambitions to create government-as-a-platform, where common components are used across the public sector to create new services.
Under this approach the government has ‘red lined' IT contracts that exceed £100m, outside exceptional circumstances.
However, as a non-departmental public body, the BBC does not have to adhere to these rules and has more freedom to explore a procurement strategy that works for its organisation.
Author's view: As an organisation semi-autonomous to the government, it is no surprise that the BBC seems to be pursuing a different approach to procuring IT and connectivity services.
However, the government touting its platform ambitions, and declaring that it is knocking down the tower model, leaves a confusing view of the public sector's true approach to technology.
Some parts remain locked in the tower models, others are laden with legacy contracts, and only a few have adopted more agile approaches. One department was even forced to abandon parts of its IT system and return to paper-based processes instead.
What is becoming clear is that the government's digital transformation of the public sector is certainly not to a uniform standard.
It is likely to require a more holistic approach, applied on a case-by-case basis, if government-as-a-platform and a more tech-savvy public sector are to be realised.
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