Public sector organisations in Cheshire and Merseyside expect to save up to £1 million a year on networking costs after signing a contract with Updata Infrastructure for a regional shared network.
The contract is part of the government's Public Services Network (PSN) programme, which aims to help local public sector organisations cut costs of networking by sharing infrastructure, while enabling them to share information more easily.
Updata will provide a fully-managed Wide Area Network (WAN), which will include high-speed fibre-optic broadband to link hundreds of public sector buildings across the region. Among the 13 core partners on the contract, the councils have 650 buildings, police have 60, fire and rescue have 24 stations, while health services have around 200 buildings recorded.
"When you look at government services, we had lots of duplication," said Martin Potts, ICT strategic architecture manager at Cheshire East Council.
"Going forward we are looking to have one common, combined network."
Potts said that the partners had decided to sign an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) contract to avoid the "sizeable" capital injection that is required when a technology reaches the end of its life span.
"The main benefit going forward is that we get to completely refresh the network. We are completely agnostic about the technology - we wanted the business benefits. With IaaS, you shift emphasis to the supplier to keep things current," he said.
"One thing we've got in this contract is innovation, rather than being constrained by the supplier's service catalogue."
Sharing communications infrastructure is just the start of the regions' collaboration journey, Potts said, adding that the council would be looking at data centres next. Cheshire East and Chester West and Chester already have a shared ICT service, called Cosocius.
The initial 13 partners on the framework are Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cheshire East Council, Warrington Borough Council, St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Cheshire Police, Merseyside Police, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Cheshire & Wirral NHS Partnership Trust, Chesire and MErsey Commissioning Support Unit and Merseytravel.
The contract is currently worth £6 million with the core partners, and just Cheshire East and West councils expect to see their networking costs fall by 35 percent with the contract. As more organisations sign up to the contract, the more savings will be achieved, Potts said.
Other public sector, voluntary and social housing providers will be able to join the network once it is operational by April 2015.
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