Jury Out for the Future of Broadband

BroadbandChoices.co.uk has conducted a survey to gauge public opinion on next-generation broadband, following the recent eForum Government conference. 61 per cent of internet users rated the ability to ‘download DVD-quality films quickly’ as the service they most want from next generation broadband. However, when respondents where asked if they would pay anything extra for “Super Fast” 100Mb broadband servicessome 60 per cent responded either ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’.

Michael Phillips, product director at BroadbandChoices.co.ukcomments, “The results clearly demonstrate continued confusion amongst consumers regarding their need for faster connections. With future consumer demand still unclear, there is an argument for delaying UK broadband network development in the short term and instead keeping track on broadband progress in other countries so that we might learn from their experiences.

Consumers definitely want more from their broadband. When asked ‘which future service would be of most interest?’ respondents rated ‘downloading films’ and ‘watching TV’ as the most popular activities. However, broadband connections are currently not delivering, given that ‘watching TV’ or ‘downloading films’ presently accounts for the least amount of time spent on the internet in a given week.” Phillips stated “This highlights the fact that the current services offered to consumers are simply not of a high enough standard to warrant utilising this service, and that if speeds were improved consumers are more likely to use broadband to watch TV and/or download films.

“Obviously broadband has a long way to go if it is to encourage consumers to use these kinds of services. Upgrading speeds to 100Mb would certainly a step forward in terms of renewing a positive public perception of broadband, which is currently missing.

“The key question is, if broadband has the capability for 100Mb speeds will ISPs be able to deliver this successfully to all of their customers?”

At The Westminster eForum event Peter Phillips, a high-ranking Ofcom regulator responsible for its strategy policy, told the eForum that the UK had done “quite well” in the current generation of broadband, but that the lessons learned must be applied to future markets. There was also concern from several quarters, including Ofcom, over how to open up the debate and engage the public.

Phillips comments “BroadbandChoices.co.ukcarried out over 100,000 of our own speed tests, and found that the average customer only got 39 per cent of their promised speed. Therefore, we would advise customers to switch to a ‘light user’ package if they are only checking e-mails and surfing the web as they will only being using a couple of Gigabytes of data in a month.

Phillips concludes: “In summary, the research demonstrates a genuine interest in future, significantly faster broadband services, although the jury is out on whether consumers would be willing to pay more for the privilege. Questions also hang over whether ISPs will be able to consistently deliver 100Mb speeds since performance to date has been mixed, at best.”