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BT bags MASSIVE £425m broadband rollout deal in Wales

Company gobbles all the fibre, nobody else gets a look-in

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BT has unsurprisingly won hefty government funds to roll out a faster broadband network to Wales.

Sole rival Fujitsu withdrew from the race for securing BDUK investment in the country earlier this year, leaving BT as the only bidder.

The national telco confirmed on Thursday that the Welsh fibre broadband project was worth around £425m including the £220m injected into the scheme by BT.

It reiterated that the planned upgrade would also be subjected to state aid and major projects approval from the European Commission.

Competition concerns have been expressed in Brussels about the allocation of public funds going only to BT so far in what in recent weeks has gone from a two-horse to a one-horse race for broadband improvement cash.

BT is starting to drum up plenty of business in the parts of the UK that it had found no compelling reason to invest its own money in. The company is spending £2.5bn on rolling out mainly fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology to reach 75 per cent coverage of Blighty by 2015.

That work is concentrated in densely populated regions where the return on investment will be greatest.

But now that the company is winning more and more contracts from local authorities in the harder-to-reach parts of the UK, Brussels' antitrust officials are questioning the entire procurement process.

BT, too, has been edgy about its victories - repeatedly pointing out that it had won the BDUK cash fair-and-square.

The only true rival competing for that money had been Fujitsu, which recently declared that it was walking away from the bidding process for the time being.

Earlier this week, the Japanese tech giant lost its attempt to bag the North Yorkshire county council's £70m contract, which went to BT.

As for BT's plans in Wales, BT said it was hoping to bring broadband speeds of up to 80Mbit/s over FTTC to 96 per cent of homes and businesses in the Land of the Cymry.

It added that fibre-to-the-premises broadband speeds of up to 330Mbps would be deployed "in certain areas" of the country.

The Welsh government nearly matched BDUK's £58m investment by slapping £57m on the network upgrade pile. Around £90m is expected from the European Regional Development Fund.

BT said that, as part of the tender process in Wales, its network would "be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis so Welsh consumers and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market." ®

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