Could slow SME broadband break the ‘Long Tail’?

Following a report by Point Topic revealing that high speed communications are now the norm for UK business, with average speeds approaching 8Mb/s, ntl: Telewest Business is warning that this could stifle much-needed innovation at SME level. More than a fifth (21 percent) of businesses are still struggling with speeds as low as 2 – 3 Mb/, limiting their ability to exploit the ‘Long Tail’ business model of reaching distributed niche markets.

While ten percent of companies now have access to 50Mb services or higher, demand is still being driven by medium to large sized businesses. ntl:Telewest Business spokesperson, Jon Hexter, commented: “The fact that SMEs are still falling behind in access to next generation communications is further bad news for the UK economy at a difficult time. Advances in technology have long been seen as a way for small, nimble enterprises to steal a march on big business. This, however, will be difficult to achieve if the speed and responsiveness of smaller businesses is hampered by poor communications.

“The ‘Long Tail’ model championed by Chris Anderson, which sees a bright future for small enterprises using IP-enabled business models to carve specialist niches for themselves in worldwide market, is an exciting proposition. Next generation communications are a necessity, however, if SMEs are to access the high speed services they need to make effective use of e-commerce and VoIP and videoconferencing required to liaise with international customers.

Hexter concluded: “The biggest barrier here, as always, is one of perception. Small businesses need to know that there are already networks that can meet their needs, rather than wait for existing suppliers to upgrade existing creaking infrastructure.”