Cabinet Office launches procurement for new PSN framework

'Network Services' framework worth up to £2 billion expected to launch in March 2015

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is seeking suppliers for a replacement framework for the Public Services Network (PSN).

The tender for the framework was originally supposed to launch earlier this month but was affected by unexplained delays.

PSN aims to create a single ICT infrastructure for all UK public sector organisations. The Government Digital Service (GDS) is in charge of the everyday operation of the scheme, with CCS running procurement.

The government hopes it will help to reduce the £2.5 billion the public sector spends on telecoms every year and enable more efficient, joined-up public services.

The framework, named 'Network Services', will be open to the entire public sector and valued at between £100 million to £2 billion depending on the number of call-off contracts, according to a notice published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

It will replace the existing 'PSN Connectivity' framework launched in April 2012 and 'PSN Services', which went live in June 2012.

Network Services is expected to launch in March 2015 and run for up to four years. Public sector bodies will be able to buy services from 10 lots, with a maximum of 25 suppliers offering services in each lot.

The lots cover services for data access, local connectivity, traditional telephony, inbound telephony, IP telephony solutions, mobile voice and data, paging, video conferencing, audio conferencing and integrated communications.

Suppliers have until 4 December to submit tenders or requests to participate, the OJEU notice said.

CCS is currently facing a legal challenge to another framework, called 'Technology Products', which was meant to launch last month.

The Cabinet Office is yet to explain which supplier lodged the challenge, their grounds for action or provide updated timescales for the procurement.

All local authorities are connected to PSN as of last month, when the last local authority - Telford & Wrekin Council - finally joined the network.

It was one of a number of authorities that initially refused connection as a result of compliance issues.

The last compliance audit completed at the end of March and was particularly challenging as the Cabinet Office took over the process from CESG, increased the scope of the audit and introduced new controls and regulations.

Local authority IT managers association Socitm has said it expects the compliance process to be smoother this time round.

However, president Nick Roberts recently highlighted issues yet to be resolved "around remote access to data, use of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the sharing of data with non-PSN organisations when required".

Supplier association PSNGB said it had worked closely with CCS to make it easier for SMEs to bid for the new framework, particularly regarding the structure of lots.

PSNGB's SME director Ian Fishwick explained that the previous approach of asking an individual company to provide a large number of products under each individual lot barred specialist and smaller companies from participating.

The association's managing director Mike Thomas said he believed the replacement framework would "make for a better market place for the supplier and user community alike".

But Fishwick added: "It now remains to be seen how many more SMEs will submit bids this time."

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