“If the UK wants to compete in a global arena, the area that must be addressed is the Government mindset. As it stands, the UK fails to make the top 10 countries for broadband speeds and doesn’t even figure on FTTH leader-boards. As a nation, it’s very much a follower than a leader and that needs to change.
“The irony is that the UK is one of the biggest users of technology. The average Briton is spending 50 hours a week online and online shopping per person is higher than anywhere else. The UK internet economy has been valued at £82bn – worth almost 8.3% of GDP – more than any other country in the world. As such, high speed broadband is increasing moving from a “nice to have” to a necessity by which to do business. And as far as our personal lives go, it’s becoming essential from a social perspective and is judged by many to be more important to them than the likes of coffee, or even sex. Yet despite this adoption and appetite, there is a clear disconnect between the level of demand and the quality of the UK broadband infrastructure.
“In order to address this mindset the Government needs have a much more ambitious vision and pragmatic strategy, supported by a financial investment. £530 million may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t when you put it into context. The Chinese government recently allocated 80% of its $303 billion infrastructure investment for broadband FTTH development. If you pro-rata that per person in the UK you would be looking at least £8 billion. By putting clear and ambitious investment in an infrastructure that has distinct correlation with the UK economy, it will deliver long term long term RoI. You have to question whether the £17 billion for HS2 would be better spent on a broadband infrastructure.
“In addition to the investment, the Government needs to be clear about the goals they are setting for themselves and the market. Firstly, they need to agree universal coverage of high-speed internet. For 90 per cent of the population it’s imperative it is delivered via FTTH – the technology exists to bring standardised cost effective 1 Gig speeds to the majority of UK businesses and consumers. Secondly, for remote areas where it isn’t cost effective to pull fibre to, there are extension options to plug the gap – such as satellite broadband.
“In summary, the country’s broadband strategy needs to be far more ambitious. If the UK is constantly trying to plug the demands of yesterday, it won’t be ready to enable the needs of tomorrow. The nay-sayers that ask why we need speeds of up to 1 Gig just need to look at how speeds have evolved over the last ten years. The industry is expanding at an astronomical rate and we need to think ahead and lead, rather than follow. The underlying infrastructure is critical for development. Just like Heathrow positioned itself as a transport hub for the world, a high speed broadband network would be the catalyst for the development of host of new technologies – and ultimately catapult the UK to lead the digital economy.”