The government's Heath and Social Care Network (HSCN) will create an opportunity for smaller vendors and resellers to transact with public sector bodies when it launches next year, according to industry body Innopsis.
The HSCN will replace the current N3 network and is set to roll out in March.
The N3 network sees BT deliver one of the largest private networks in the UK to the NHS, providing a wide area network to support the likes of GP clinics and health centres across the country.
The HSCN differs in that it will not see public sector bodies restricted to dealing with one supplier - they will have the freedom to select any qualifying supplier.
Michael Bowyer, director of Innopsis, the industry association for suppliers that provide network services to public sector bodies, said the obligations framework was set up with SMEs in mind.
"For resellers and smaller vendors, the way this has been created [means] they will have a route to market," he said.
"For any vendor that wants to deliver network services, regardless of size, if they have a capability but always felt before that they wouldn't qualify, this HSCN should be very attractive to them.
"Large network vendors have a pretty restricted portfolio. It's a good portfolio, but a lot of the smaller vendors can be very agile and HSCN is not just about big fat pipes, it requires a raft of services so I think this is one of the biggest opportunities to resellers I've ever seen."
HSCN differs from other government frameworks such as G-Cloud or Technology Products in that it is not a framework that suppliers have to bid for - they just need to abide by the obligations framework.
The information assurance requirements, which Bowyer said can often be a stumbling block for smaller suppliers, have been set up so a supplier has two years to prove they can meet the requirements, while still being able to trade through HSCN in this period.
Ian Wilcox, market development director for the public sector at MLL Telecom, said that the government has started to deliver on its word to make the public sector more accessible to SMEs.
MLL Telecom is a secured managed network services provider and is already on the Network Services Framework and the Public Sector Telecoms Services Framework.
"A few years back when they [the government] were saying 'the public sector needs to be more accessible' we all nodded and smiled, but it has actually gone a long way to doing that and I think the HCSN has taken that agenda seriously," he said.
"As far as the model goes, we're sitting as equals in the supply chain, whereas with something like PSN (Public Services Network) there was a pecking order. That's something that has come out of the HSCN framework which as far as I'm concerned is a positive."
Ian Fishwick, chief executive of AdEPT Telecom and commercial director at Innopsis, also praised the network's SME friendliness and said it should be viewed as a "role model case study" for how the public sector should work with suppliers.
"It has been really good in terms of the NHS setting some of the objects, how they thought the operating model should look, and then they passed it to Innopsis and said 'is this something that industry would back'?, he said.
"We were trying to get a level commercial playing field, and [make sure] that the network design didn't accidentally give commercial advantages to some of the bigger players.
"Our view now is, yes, SMEs can compete in this marketplace and certainly AdEPT will be one of the first to put themselves forward for compliance."
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