Digital Britain stuck in the Dark Ages
-Ted Higase is managing director Europe, Middle East and Asia at Global Crossing. The opinions expressed are his own.-
The government-proposed Digital Britain initiative is living in the dark ages, especially if its authors expect UK businesses to believe that a transmission of two megabits per second is “superfast”.
Having adequate underlying infrastructure is critical to the success of Digital Britain and that requires investment and commitment to ongoing innovation. Internet foundations must be robust enough to deal with demand for business use in particular, but a successful Digital Britain needs to be about gigabits not megabits.
In the same breath, before businesses begin to jump on-board the Digital Britain bandwagon, they must understand the race to gain a competitive advantage isn’t won purely on speed. The service must also be up to scratch with adequate provision to ensure the systems can cope and with alternative measures available should a problem arise.
One of the benefits that an improved communications network should provide businesses is the ability to work more flexibly, where remote workers can access networked information more effectively.
But by the time the scheme is rolled out, the changes will already seem outdated and some of the benefits unambitious. Fundamentally the customer is not interested in the speeds, only in the services they can use and in today’s climate the opportunity to cut overheads via remote or home working relies on the ability to provide employees access to rich media applications.
Video conferencing and the use of technologies like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are a much hyped benefit of faster broadband and offer the potential of cost savings, enhancements to business performance and reductions in the time and money spent when employees are out of the office environment. Thus, the UK economy will receive a much needed boost.
The industries’ reaction to the proposal has been mixed. With BT as the major provider of the underlying services for broadband, any government plan is heavily dependent on expansions of its next generation network. BT plans to roll out “super-fast” broadband of 20Mbps or more, but the company has warned that the government’s Digital Britain plans may need some new thinking even to achieve this, urging the government to be more precise about what services people will use, and what performance is needed, Tim Whitley, BT’s corporate strategy director said in an August interview.
For our part, Global Crossing suggests Ethernet services as a more cost effective, resilient managed service providing flexible connectivity between any two locations and avoiding dramatic speed variations in some areas. With a network capacity up to 1Gbps, this system has the capacity to achieve the desired results, not just to meet immediate needs, but to cope with long term changes and developments beyond the next few years.
Before asking businesses to invest more money in internet technologies, it’s imperative that the planned foundations outlined in the Digital Britain report are robust enough to deal with the demand. Providers must put in place adequate investments to ensure issues around quality of service and, in the worst case scenario, service drop outs are avoided.
Businesses, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and consumers need an internet infrastructure that guarantees a reliable service and that copes adequately with high levels of traffic across the country by the 2012 target. Otherwise, there is the real possibility that the UK’s businesses could fall far behind their global counterparts.