Thales set to leave Digital Region super-fast broadband scheme
South Yorkshire super-fast broadband scheme Digital Region has severed ties with Thales, the company that rolled out the network and ran it from a facility in Doncaster.
The two organisations parted ways as Thales completed the deployment of the next-generation broadband infrastructure, shortly after the four local authorities in South Yorkshire agreed to invest an additional £3.5 million into the struggling Digital Region initiative.
David Cowell, chief operating officer of Digital Region, told the Sheffield Star that the decision to split with Thales is linked to the implementation of the government's new commercial model for public sector-backed broadband networks, rather than the company's performance.
It is hoped that the new model will make public networks a more viable option by encouraging the private sector to bear an increasing amount of the risk involved in rolling them out.
"Thales has done a very good job - to the standard required, ahead of time, ahead on cost and operating to the parameters that had been set," Mr Cowell explained.
The Digital Region chief went on to express confidence that a private sector telecoms firm - such as BT and Virgin Media - will be found to take over the running of the network for an ongoing fee.
A contract to take control of the management of the project could be placed by this autumn.
Mr Cowell previously insisted that the search for a private sector partner was "without doubt the best way forward for Digital Region to ensure the significant benefits of the project are delivered".
In 2011, Digital Region racked up losses of £9.2 million due to its sky-high operating costs and a struggle to sign up customers, with this latter issue partially caused by the lack of support for the project from a major internet service provider.
Under its previous financial structure, Thales was paid for the construction and operation of the network, while the local councils and regional development agency Yorkshire Forward took the risk that income would cover maintenance and upgrade costs.