puts feelers into tech market over £650m mobile voice and data shopping list

Crown Commercial Service not wedded to plans until it has had a nice chat with suppliers

The UK government is slapping £650m of taxpayer's money on the table to see what the ravenous tech market can offer in terms of mobile data and voice services.

Beginning next financial year and spanning 48 months in total, the contract is designed to lump suppliers into a framework agreement in which they can fight like cats in a sack for slices of cash on offer.

A prior information notice signalled a come-hither gesture to the market, which is invited to "engagement webinars" during May, after which we suppose there will an exchanging of token rings.

Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the Cabinet Office agency is in charge of the procurement, and will of course take it's standard 1 per cent commission for all the business transacted via the framework. During the 2019/20 financial year, CCS increased the amount of spend through its commercial agreements by £2.4bn, from £15.7bn to £18.1bn, its accounts [PDF] said. Through its bulk-buying arrangements, the agency said it offered "commercial benefits" worth over £1bn.

The voice and data contract expected to emerge from the supplier talks is to be divided into three lots, but that is not set in stone: it will be "determined as a result of market engagement and is therefore subject to rescoping or removal," according to the Prior Information Notice.

Nonetheless, the first lot is about mobile voice and data services, including UK, international, roaming, SMS, and data which are together taken as "Airtime Services". It also includes device hardware, accessories and supporting services, mobile device management and associated supplementary services.

Next up is telecommunication audit and health check, which puts suppliers in charge of auditing current spend and usage levels. The supplier would also "offer gap analysis and recommends possible tariff/solution prioritisation and a preferred framework supplier," the tender notice said.

CCS is also looking for suppliers to provide professional support services, hoping they can "achieve a future operating model design incorporating any related technologies" like system and service integration, strategy, and implementation services.

Spending through the framework is not planned to be evenly distributed for its duration. It is expected to climb from £44.9m in the first year to £147.6 in 23/24. An expected £203.2m will be spent in 24/25 while the final year could see a bonanza of £232.1m.

CCS has been on something of a framework organising spree this year. In April, it named 30 vendors to compete for slices of a potential £1.2bn framework for back-office software. In February, it awarded Accenture, Capita, IBM, and others spots on an £800m framework designed to help the NHS shift to a more agile and/or DevOps-like approach to development and support.

We guess it's hoping to bust its £18bn spending records so we can all luxuriate in the "benefits" of its framework agreements... all for that 1 per cent fee of course. ®

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