The Forestry Commission has cut the annual cost of its telecommunication services from £2 million to £1.3 million in a renewed deal with Level 3 Communications.
Level 3 will provide the commission, which is responsible for managing the UK’s forests and woodlands, with data and voice networking as well as video conferencing and VoIP services.
Back in 2006, the commission signed a six-year, £2 million contract with Global Crossing, which was acquired by Level 3 last year.
This time around, it went through the Government Procurement Service’s Managed Telecommunications Convergence Framework (MTCF), a framework of three approved suppliers – Virgin Media Business, Siemens and Level 3.
Using the MTCF removed a lot of the workload required in vetting potential suppliers, says Chris Smith, head of business support at the Forestry Commission. "A lot of the legwork was done for us by the Government Procurement Service," he explains.
The commission’s priority in selecting suppliers was to keep the cost down to £1.3 million, says Smith. Meeting this requirement accounted for 50% of the scoring it gave each potential supplier.
It is upgrading much of its network infrastructure as part of the new contract. A 100Mb network connection is being installed at its head office in Edinburgh, for example, while 10Mb links will be installed at some of its smaller sites.
Level 3 will also install and operate a new voice-over IP telephony system for the commission, based on technology from unified communications supplier Mitel.
This is not first time the commission has attempted to deploy VoIP. Its previous contract with Global Crossing included a VoIP deployment, but in the end it proved unsuccessful.
"The solution we had six years ago didn’t worked as well as we would have liked. and we stopped deploying it," explains Smith. "It didn’t seem to give us any tactical or commercial advantage.
He adds the failure of the previous VoIP project was primarily a side-effect of the complexity of its contract with Global Crossing, rather than a failure of the supplier itself.
Due to the nature of its work, the Forestry Commission has a geographically diverse technology footprint. This includes ‘fridges’ located in various forests where the commission stores deer that it has culled in preparation for sale. Each of these ‘fridges’ has a network-connected PC on which employees enter data on deer carcasses as they are added.
Smith says the commission is now investigating the possibilities for mobile networking technologies to help it serve this disperse footprint.
"Mobile is an area of exploding demand from the public and our staff," he says. "People are out there with their mobile devices looking for information and to use our facilities. The problem is that the network is GSi (Government Secure Intranet) accredited, so we need to keep security tight while serving people.
"There are complicated set of demands going on," he says.