Case study


Secure communications you can depend on



Defence communications have always demanded a powerful balance of security, capability, and innovation


Defence Fixed Telecommunications Service (DFTS), which began in 1997, shows how a public private contract can develop into a true partnership


Delivered by BT, DFTS plays a critical role in daily Defence communications, helping to share information wherever it’s needed

Supporting the UK’s National defences

Working closely with the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces, BT has played its part in helping maintain National Security for over 100 years. Communications technologies, and the threats we face, have changed beyond all recognition in that time.

Yet one thing remains the same.

Defence communications have always demanded a powerful balance of security, capability, and innovation. Defence Fixed Telecommunications Service (DFTS) is the latest chapter in that story.

It begins back in 1997, and it shows how a public private contract can develop into a true partnership.

National defence relies on swift and secure access to key people and up-to-date information. DFTS helps the MOD in its most critical activities, like pinpointing organisations and people who make and plant Improvised Explosive Devices, or speeding up transfers and treatment of frontline casualties.

At the same time, DFTS delivers proven value for money. As a fully managed service it eliminates technology procurement risks, while BT people work hard to deliver a great service. MOD has chosen to extend the contract twice. Most recently, in 2010, it was extended to 2015.

Strong framework, scalable operations

By land, sea, or air, a Defence force is only as good as its communications. DFTS plays a critical role in daily Defence communications, helping to share information wherever it’s needed. Traffic across the UK Defence network is busier than ever.

  • Our fully managed, secure services are used every day by the MOD, by other Government Departments, and by Defence industry contractors
  • Initially we replaced 19 networks with one secure network, helping the MOD to save £700 million; today savings are on track to top £800 million
  • We manage more than 2,000 customer sites for the MOD, taking three million calls per annum, and our operators handle 15,000 emergency calls every year
  • Our VPN is one of the largest in Europe and carries 750,000 calls per day from 225,000 users
  • We have an online catalogue of over 3,500 items
  • Our Enterprise Gateway Service (EGS) handles 43,000,000 emails each year
  • We’ve got 17 full and 16 interim Government accreditations

Scale is only one side of the story. No less essential to the MOD is the assurance DFTS offers on speed, flexibility, and security. For example, being able to set up secure conference calls and teleconferencing at short notice. That includes people in multiple locations, offering rapid access to the right data.

The services provided under the DFTS contract are vital to the daily operation of the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces, in peace and at war.”
- Peter Luff,
Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology

Core network and security – Safeguarding critical Defence information
Our network is special. It’s accredited to carry RESTRICTED (IL3) information without encryption. This means no bandwidth overheads, no need for coding devices, and fewer failure points. We have a wide range of voice, video and data services offered at a variety of security classifications. We’re experts in network security and our enterprise-wide security wrap is outstanding – securing all your information, no matter how sensitive the content.

Innovation and new services – Enhancing capability to handle changing risks
Our approach embraces the benefits of emerging ICT architectures while mitigating early adoption risks. This strategy has enabled the development of innovative tools and applications for our customers. Our Enterprise Gateway Service (EGS) won the Sendmail EMEA award for most innovative use of e-mail. The new services we’re developing help keep one step ahead of those who challenge the UK’s safety. Our new secure optical core lies at the heart of our innovation strategy. It will improve application and security performance and pave the way for new secure services.

Value for money and savings – Keeping a balance between price and value
Worth £3.7 billion over its lifetime, DFTS will help MOD save around £800 million by 2015. Prices are regularly adjusted in line with Office of National Statistics data. Benchmarking is done quarterly; and BT has to satisfy the MOD that all new services are fairly priced. We’ve twice won recognition from the National Audit Office – first for price advantages, then for best practice in Defence project delivery. As a result, DFTS is now widely seen as an exemplar for large PFI deals.

Service and assurance – Knowledge, expertise, and investment
DFTS provides fully managed and accredited services so you don’t have to. We continually invest in, and maintain, our tested, accepted, and accredited network. We use compliant products listed under the CESG Approved Product Scheme (CAPS) and take care of supplier management. The MOD enjoys a single point of contact – at our dedicated Customer Assured Service Centre (CASC) – with agreed service levels and proactive network management. Our track record in systems and service
integration means we have the expertise to harmonise security imperatives with advanced technical solutions.

Partnership and customer responsiveness – A bond of mutual trust
Working hand-in-hand with the UK Armed Forces and the Defence industry, we have an in-depth understanding of the fast-changing security landscape. Our people often share the same MOD working environment. This allows them to develop a strong and responsive partnership that transcends ordinary customer/supplier relationships. That closeness means we’re ready to respond instantly to Urgent Operational Requirements or new challenges.

BT unquestionably has a pivotal role in the communications security sphere. However, the expertise and experience of its people is equally valuable in helping us apply technology for business advantage.”
- Commander Colin MacKay,
OBE, Royal Navy (retd)

Key DFTS services developed and managed for the MOD

Secure access

  • RESTRICTED LAN Interconnect (RLI)
  • SECRET LAN Interconnect (SLI)
  • Point to Point Service (PPS)
  • Enterprise Gateway Services (EGS)
  • Circuit Switched Service (CSS)
  • Secure Speech Service (SSS)
  • Managed PSTN
  • Managed Site Connectivity (MSC)
  • Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)

Our highly secure communication networks include the RLI with remote access, and SLI. They enable authorised users to access, share, and update information from any UK or overseas location at critical levels of security clearance, while PPS provides exclusive use of a dedicated fixed link for secure data transfer between locations. The EGS supplies the exclusive means to access the internet from the RLI. DFTS assures a robust foundation for the MOD through its Circuit Switched and Secure Speech Services, up to RESTRICTED and SECRET levels respectively. Automatic Call Distribution enables virtual call centres to combine calls from multiple locations. Managed Site Connectivity keeps the physical infrastructure in tip-top condition, while UNCLASSIFIED calls on public networks enjoy highly competitive rates with Managed PSTN.

Flexible working

  • Enhanced Video Teleconferencing (eVTC)
  • BT MeetMe
  • BT Event Call
  • 3G Broadband data cards
  • Smartnumbers
  • RLI Remote Access
  • Managed Mobile
  • RESTRICTED BlackBerry

Defence involves intricate, multi-layered collaboration often across international boundaries. DFTS collaboration capabilities include Enhanced Video Teleconferencing for swift set-up of urgent face-to-face meetings, with BT MeetMe or BT Event Call for voice conversations. Smartnumbers enable single number access over multiple devices, while 3G Broadband data cards enable fast remote access to the RLI at home or on the move. Our customers can choose from a full range of mobile handsets, under a single contract and supplier. This now includes the many flexible functions of the Blackberry at RESTRICTED level.

DFTS remote access has fundamentally changed my ability to access data at all levels. My productivity has increased: I can now work where I want, when I want.”
- Rear Admiral Rees Ward,
Royal Navy (retd)

Looking to the future

The success of DFTS is proof of the ability of BT to deliver safe, innovative, and cost effective public sector solutions. Defence communications require the very highest levels of protection; but it’s not only Defence that needs assured information security, improved capabilities, and cost savings as top priorities.

Continued focus on public spending will inevitably place longer-term pressures on the MOD to cut costs. The flexibility and value for money of DFTS seems sure to become even more vital as Whitehall budgets shrink. Many other Government Departments will just as keenly feel the same cost reduction pressures.

By pioneering a robust model of network and service convergence, DFTS may offer valuable lessons for the proposed UK Public Services Network (PSN) – a major project to run discrete government services over a common platform. Here too, security, resilience, and cost effectiveness will be central.

It might be said that our track record speaks for itself, but we don’t want to sound in any way presumptuous. We’re looking to the future, raising the standard, and delivering innovative new services for MOD. To put it in a nutshell, we deliver consistently secure communications in a constantly changing security landscape.

DFTS offers transformational capabilities, proven here in the MOD, which could help the UK significantly improve government processes.”
- Major Dave Whitaker,
DE&S ISS, Networks Team



  • 10-year DFTS agreement signed
  • BT starts rationalising 19 networks into one
  • DFTS takes over packet-switched service


  • RESTRICTED LAN Interconnect service launched


  • First industry partner signs up
  • Early Enterprise Gateway Service gives safe, speedy web access


  • Managed PSTN service saves up to £6,000 per site


  • Full security accreditation awarded
  • Customer Assured Service Centre established


  • RESTRICTED LAN Interconnect Remote Access offers global connectivity
  • First MOD Trading Fund (Met Office) signs-up
  • Secure Speech Service launched in UK and abroad
  • DFTS dDirectory launched and DFTS Catalogue available


  • DFTS arrives in Germany
  • DFTS dDirectory nominated for MOD Smart Award
  • Managed Mobile service launched
  • First JMS shared working environment user


  • German voice and data migration completed


  • DFTS agreement is extended to 2012
  • DFTS arrives in Cyprus


  • Enterprise Gateway Service wins innovative use of email award
  • Automatic Call Distribution service launched


  • DFTS celebrates 10-year anniversary


  • RESTRICTED BlackBerry service launched


  • Managed Site Connectivity service launched
  • Major eVTC roll-out for Land Forces – 126 facilities in 82 locations


  • DFTS agreement is extended to 2015
  • MOD-wide BlackBerry service pilot
  • Web management for MOD main building Smartnumbers launched

2011 - 2015

  • Secure Optical Core implementation completed, and further adoption of next generation network technologies
  • Service improvements focus on enhancing value, continuing innovation, and meeting security threats
  • Strategy revolves around the flexibility and agility needed to match an evolving MOD organisation
  • Extension of DFTS-style functionality through integration into the Public Services Network (PSN)
  • Sharing and integrating security and architectural insights with the UK Public Services Network



DFTS brochure