BT wins landmark £120m communications contract in Surrey and Berkshire


New procurement solution provides technology for all public services in the area

In a unique deal, BT has won a contract to provide a fully-managed and integrated voice and data communications solution for public services, including the NHS, in Surrey and Berkshire.

Acting on behalf of Surrey County Council, specialist lawyers from Michelmores’ Technology, Media & Communications (TMC) group advised on the contract, which is the first single shared services agreement of its kind in the UK.

With a potential value of up to £120m, the deal requires BT to act as a systems integrator and provide a managed wide-area network, local area networks, IP voice services, and other managed IP services.

The programme is known as the Unified Communities over Regional Network (UNICORN) and, once implemented, will be available to a wide range of public sector bodies and voluntary sector organisations within Surrey, Berkshire and the immediate proximity, such as ambulance services, medical facilities, local authorities, and charities.

In addition to providing the UNICORN Services, BT will be required to demonstrate that it can sustainably deliver best value in the fast-moving and ever-developing telecoms market. UNICORN will also seek to interface with Surrey's Superfast Broadband programme, which will make Surrey the best connected county in the UK.

We needed to create a model of procurement for UNICORN that was very different to traditional methods and so needed a different type of contract to support it

Partner and head of the TMC group, Rehman Noormohamed, said: “Given that a number of existing voice and data communications network contracts were coming to an end in similar time frames, there was an opportunity for Surrey County Council together with Surrey Districts and Boroughs and Berkshire Unitary Authorities to review and explore the most efficient, effective, sustainable and economic way to replace existing services with leading-edge voice, data, telephony and technology services.

“Essentially, UNICORN is a partnership of public and voluntary sector organisations that have sought to aggregate demand and purchase networking services collaboratively. The partnership lays the foundations for much closer public service integration and will provide participating authorities with access to a better quality and range of services, economies of scale, business benefits and overall cost savings.”

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Nick Roberts, Surrey County Council’s IMT customers services and partnerships group manager and programme director, added: “We needed to create a model of procurement for UNICORN that was very different to traditional methods and so needed a different type of contract to support it. We carefully navigated European legislation to deliver a robust and fit-for-purpose contractual relationship with the supplier to enable them to act as an independent systems integrator on behalf of a wide range of participating authorities.