Fujitsu has admitted it will no longer bid for money from a £530m pot of taxpayer cash to roll-out broadband in Britain's countryside - effectively leaving the lot up for grabs by BT.
The national telco has to date been the only preferred bidder to bag any of the dosh, dished out by the government's Ministry of Fun through its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme for rural parts of Blighty.
Fujitsu today told The Reg what it told the Financial Times on Friday:
Various conditions surrounding the BDUK process, which we have discussed with the [Department for Culture, Media and Sport], effectively rule Fujitsu out of the competition for new areas. So while we remain supportive of the process and its objectives, we are not actively pursuing opportunities within it.
But many will argue that Fujitsu's exit has now turned the entire process into an absolute joke.
The Japanese tech giant, which had been the only other preferred bidder for the BDUK funds, has appeared resigned to failure for many, many months now. And it didn't help when, in September 2012, the Cabinet Office effectively froze the company out of bids for being too "high risk" to take on public-sector contracts.
BT was clearly pleased as punch with the outcome. It gave The Register this statement today:
If other companies have withdrawn from the process it is because they are unwilling to invest the large sums that are required without being guaranteed a short-term return.
That is despite several of them pledging to make such an investment. In contrast, BT has stood by its promises saying it will invest up to a billion pounds via the process but accepting that the payback period will be more than ten years.
This approach has proved popular with county councils who are seeking a long term partner who will deliver a network that is open to all ISPs.
Last year, competition concerns stalled the BDUK process when European Commission officials investigated whether BT dominated the broadband market in Blighty. After months of wrangling between Whitehall and Brussels, state aid for fibre broadband deployment to the UK countryside was finally given the go ahead.
However, since then it has become clear that the Tory-led coalition government's target to bring super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of homes and businesses across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by 2015 has now slipped. With every new announcement from BT trumpeting another BDUK win, the completion date is invariably 2016. ®