News that the economic slowdown is causing BT to re-think the roll out of 21CN has prompted the following comment from Martin Balaam, CEO of Redstone plc.
“The UK cannot remain a world leader in terms of economic output and services without investment in communications infrastructure. BT’s plan to potentially delay its next generation network isn’t a surprise in the current economic climate. It is quite rightly looking at how it can satisfy its shareholders and still achieve profit margins in a recession. But it shouldn’t really be up to the UK’s commercial organisations to provide the next generation of super-fast broadband services so crucial for competitive advantage. The Government needs to play its part.
The Government is still financing public infrastructure projects, so it should be investing in infrastructure that will support future demand for bandwidth and best position the country for competing in the global economy. The next generation network is not just about saving on call costs with VoIP. It will help the business community to continue to thrive with the provision of more secure and intelligent bandwidth that enables applications like video on demand, energy consumption monitoring, IPTV, VoWiFi and innovative medical devices.
We all agree that having world leading communications infrastructure is a must for UK plc. Not only does the business community need an educated workforce and a safe environment, it also requires the flexibility for truly mobile working that can be highly productive and generate profits anytime and anywhere. The need for high speed broadband for home workers – heavy users of web services and VoIP phone systems – is also growing. The shift towards storing and managing information online, “in the cloud” is also adding pressure. For all these reasons the Government cannot afford to sit back and wait for the UK business community to provide its own infrastructure – that just isn’t going to happen in the short term.
One answer could be a Government backed infrastructure fund to provide project finance to next generation developments. Investment in better broadband services is a vital step towards ensuring that the benefits of all of our bandwidth hungry activities can be gained, and most importantly that the UK can remain economically competitive.