National Grid makes plans to upgrade fibre network in £450m project

National Grid intends to start a tender process for its UK and US fibre optic network to be ripped out and replaced with modernised cables.

The National Grid’s £450m project will also establish a network operations centre and aim to improve maintenance across National Grid’s network. Comprising of five elements which are detailed in a government contract put out to tender, the project will focus primarily on the provision, repair, support, and maintenance of fibre connections from National Grid operational locations.

A statement made by the company reads: "We have sent out a market notice outlining our intentions to start a tender process to identify suppliers who can meet National Grid's current and future networks strategy requirements. The process will be managed out of the UK however the programme, which is comprised of five elements, represents investment in both UK and US networks. 

"National Grid and other UK energy companies published their 'Digitisation Strategies for Modernising Energy Data' back in December 2020 which outlines future plans and priorities. National Grid will continue to share information on this tender process via market notices as we move forward in RIIO-2."

Providing more investment in digital technology, the contract could also see the addition of more modern infrastructure to the network, which has been estimated to boost the UK’s GDP by almost 7% by 2040.

Further to this, the National Grid is also planning to create an Operational Telecommunications (Optel) Managed Service to include updated SCADA systems, Optel, data services for electricity transmission, and system operation across customer owned Optel networks. This will cover full technology replacement and maintenance, along with addressing faults, configuration, accounting, performance and security.

To help improve the digital divide, the contract also includes modernising the legacy MPLS transport network, SD-WAN, internet and cloud access, labour for field support, plus hardware and infrastructure provision and maintenance.

According to price comparison site Uswitch, fibre broadband is currently thought to be available to around 96% of the UK. However, this is mainly fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) using copper cables to get to the premises, and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), or gigabit broadband is actually only available to a very small percentage of the nation.

It was originally pledged that the whole of the UK would have high-speed broadband by 2025 but this is now very unlikely according to MPs due to a number of delays by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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