The techUK’s Good to Great Connectivity Campaign Week is a timely reminder that there is still much to do in order to get the UK’s infrastructure closer to where it needs to be. When compared to our international peers (and competitors) the UK does not currently stack up well. For instance, we have the lowest fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployment in the OECD, with around two per cent coverage. And the success of London as a technology hub currently is still at odds with its infrastructure – the Evening Standard places London in 26th place on a league table for connectivity in Europe’s capitals – downloads take three times longer than in Paris. With the spotlight on the UK as never before to maintain its global competitiveness, we can and must do better.
Last year the Internet economy contributed 10 per cent of the UK’s GDP and recent Tech City data outlined that the digital sector in the UK is growing over 32 per cent faster than the wider economy. But Internet capacity is the ‘fuel’ that enables this growth, which will undoubtedly be hindered without the right infrastructure to support and facilitate future innovation.
Across the world, billions are being invested into the development of pure fibre telecoms infrastructure to support the meteoric growth of the world’s digital economy and mass digitisation of industries. Here in the UK, the shift to gigabit broadband has already begun – hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses already have access to gigabit broadband speeds. However, fast-tracking access to millions requires industry collaboration and government support.
The government is making the right noises but we need it to deliver. The Digital Economy Bill is currently passing through Parliament and Ofcom is laying the groundwork to introduce greater competition into broadband. But to build on this foundation we need more. What do we call on the Government specifically to do?
- Support full fibre and set ambitious targets: For a developed nation with one of the world’s leading Internet economies, our broadband targets need to be higher. Yes, we need to address coverage, but we also need to be clear and ambitious on targets for infrastructure and broadband speeds. We have asked the government to support a target for 80% of businesses and homes to have a pure fibre connection by 2026.
- Enable competitiveness in the market: We believe that it is only fair and just that the government creates and maintains an environment where the alternative network (alt-net) companies can compete, survive, and ultimately thrive. To achieve this, we have asked for a suspension of all business rates on new fibre assets, for the next ten years. We have also asked the government to develop regulation that both encourages both competition and continued private sector investment.
- Market transparency: The market incumbents have been marketing their broadband products as ‘fibre’ for years. It’s time that there was clarity in the market. Services delivered over Fibre-to-the-Cabinet are inferior to those delivered via Fibre-to-the-Premises – but when they are both called ‘fibre’ how can the user possibly know and understand this? To enable market transparency, we have asked the government to commit to an overhaul of the current advertising guidelines, to give customers much-needed guidance on the connectivity quality they can expect.
Guest blog by Steve Holford, Hyperoptic’s Chief Customer Officer for techUK's "Good to Great Connectivity for the UK" Week.