BRITISH Telecom is preparing to slash its team of preferred contractors by up to half on its£3.7 billion maintenance and capital works programme.
BT will appoint 13 teams to the eight-year improvement scheme next Tuesday (May 2).
The communications giant currently has 19 preferred suppliers on its book split between nine civils contractors and 10 cable supply firms. It is understood it intends to cut this list to a maximum of 10.
BT is following government guidelines on setting up regional business areas and is proposing to appoint 13 regional business managers spanning the 13 UK regions.
Each team will be responsible for the maintenance and capital works of a region for four years initially, with an option to extend for a further four. Contracts for each of the areas are thought to be worth between £30 million and £50 million a year.
Suppliers are waiting to find out whether they have been successful in their bids. The deals are scheduled to be up and running before the end of August.
One bidder said: 'My understanding is that, as long as you keep your nose clean for the first four years and do the job, you will get the extension.
'There are certain areas that firms will want to work in more than others because of their own geographical presence.
'You can communicate this to BT by bidding more keenly in those areas.'
It is thought that all the current suppliers are bidding for all 13 RBMs.
Following orders from BT, contractors have been forced to form alliances with cable supply firms, as they will lead the bid for RBM status.
Known partnerships that have been formed to bid include: Kvaerner/Pirelli; McNicholas plc/Fujitsu; ARM Utility Services/MGT; and Barhale/Marconi.
In addition to BT's existing 19 long-term suppliers, other firms hoping to break into the lucrative market include Morrison Construction, Kennedy Construction, Ashbourne Communications and North Midland Construction - which is also understood to have teamed up with Marconi to bid for the deals in the Midlands.
The civils suppliers currently include: Barhale Construction; Kvaerner; McNicholas PLC; ARM Utility Services; Lowery & Sons; Wrekin Construction; Chap Construction; McNicholas Construction; and Corning (formerly BICC Cables).
The cable supply firms currently include: Ericsonn; Fujitsu; Filcon Ltd; Kelly Group; Marconi Communications; Sirti; MGT; Telecom Eirann Services UK; and Pirelli.
The areas maintained by the 13 Regional Business Managers will be: Scotland North; Scotland South; North East Cumbria; Yorkshire and Humber; Wales; North West; West Midlands; East Midlands; South West; Thames Valley; London; Eastern; and South East.