Walsall Council to roll out public sector network to schools

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (WMBC) has announced plans to build a new, more cost-effective fibre network to connect up the area’s 129 primary and secondary schools.

Updata Infrastructure will be responsible for providing, renting and managing the 1Gb, MPLS fibre network under a contract worth £908,000 over the next three years.

The council is also looking at making the network available to other local government bodies, and possibly using the platform to share services with other local councils.

The new network will link up eight exchanges with the Walsall civic centre, the main council building, and the first phase of the rollout in July will be to connect 75 of the borough’s schools.

Currently, the schools can only sign up to widely-dispersed bandwidths, of 2Mbps, 10Mbps or 100Mbps, for example, which can lead to unnecessary costs as they over-provision for peak demand. However, there is more flexibility under the new contract, as bandwidth is available in smaller increments, making it easier to scale up or down.

“We will be saving lots of our costs because we can change the bandwidth. They [schools] will only pay for what they use,” said Sharon Worrall, strategic supplier manager at WMBC.

Furthermore, if a part of the network fails, traffic can be re-routed round the network, which was not possible before when each school had its own, point-to-point circuit connecting to Walsall’s main council building.

As existing contracts with suppliers including BT and Virgin Media Business, expire, the new network will then be rolled out to the remaining schools, and eventually to all the council’s corporate sites, including libraries, social care and inclusion and children’s services.

WMBC also wants to encourage other local government bodies to join the network.

“We could also accommodate other public bodies such as the NHS, PCTs (Primary Care Trusts), Police and Fire Service, and other partners working with the council to deliver services to our citizens,” said Sharon Worrall, strategic supplier manager at WMBC.

It is also looking to use the network as a backbone to share services with the region’s other councils.

“We are talking to other Black Country councils to say we could join our networks together and have the Black Country PSN,” said Worrall.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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