The Cabinet Office has today unveiled its £2 billion Public Services Network (PSN) Connectivity framework, which aims to save £130 million a year in central government up until 2014.

The PSN is core to the government's ICT Strategy and the Cabinet Office hopes that in three years' time 80 percent of its PC-based staff (four million users) will be on the network."The Public Services Network is a fundamental building block of our ICT Strategy, and today's announcement of suppliers to the framework is a huge step forward in providing the infrastructure to deliver services to citizens more efficiently and cheaply," said Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister. "We are confident that the PSN programme will substantially reduce the cost of communication services across government. [It] will also change the way public sector organisations work and interact, making it possible for government to operate in a much more flexible way, regardless of workers' usual department or office."

The full list of suppliers to the public sector that have been signed to the framework includes Virgin Media Business, Logicalis, BT, Cable & Wireless, Global Cross, Capita, Updata, Fujitsu, MDNX Enterprise Services, eircom, KCOM and Thales.

The PSN will create a network of networks by joining up organisations, departments, authorities and agencies that deliver public services at local, regional and national levels.

A catalogue of PSN services will be sold to the public sector by a number of PSN providers (those listed above), who will connect to Direct Network Service Providers (DNSPs) via the Government Conveyance Network (GCN). The GCN is, in effect, the backbone to the PSN, acting as the gateway between the networks of different service providers.

Notably the government has enlisted SME Updata, perhaps in an attempt to support its recent SME initiatives, which claims that it has something different to offer the public sector compared to usual suspects BT and Virgin Media.

Richard Bennett, managing director at Updata, said: "Today, over 12 per cent of schools in England and Wales rely on Updata for their broadband connections, and we are represented in, and responsible for, some of the largest aggregated public sector networks that exist in the UK today."

He added: "I believe we can offer something a little bit different to the mainstream. We are big enough to deliver. We have proved that many times in the past and yet we can offer levels of flexibility and customer service not easily achieved with larger organisations."

Virgin Media has announced that it is planning to beat the PSN competition by treating all potential customers, which includes central government departments, non-departmental public bodies, the NHS, local authorities and voluntary sector charities, as a "single customer".

It claims that confusing pricing strategies and service delivery models have hindered the adoption of new technology in the public sector, and will now offer PSN services on its fibre-optic network through a 'one government, one customer approach'.

"Public sector CIOs had to spend more time deciphering some of the pricing that exists around ICT procurement rather than getting on with improving their IT. But you shouldn't have to be a detective to try and understand costs and get the best deal from your suppliers," said Lee Hull, director, public sector at Virgin Media Business.

"That's why we're treating the public sector as one customer, however large or small each individual organisation is. This means simple, predictable, pricing regardless of whether you're a local council, a fire service or a central government department."

Virgin Media's announcement echoes a recent BT study that found there is significant confusion among public sector bodies as to the benefits of PSN.

In a survey of 1,300 public servants, BT found that 56 percent working in an IT or commercial function did not know where their organisation stood in the process of adopting a PSN.

It also highlighted that of the 44 percent of IT savvy public servants that knew what stage their organisation was at in adopting PSN, only 12 percent were carrying out initial scoping exercises. Nine percent have an implementation in place and seven percent are carrying out detailed feasibility studies.

The PSN connectivity framework will initially last for two years, but the government has reserved the right to extend the contract for an additional two years after this.