By Daniel Hunter
Ofcom says more still needs to be done on the UK's digital infrastructure to cope with growing demand.
The Ofcom Infrastructure Report 2014 found that the UK is making good progress in the roll-out and take-up of crucial infrastructure, but there is still a lot of work to do in improving broadband and mobile services.
Greater availability of superfast broadband for SMEs was one of the key challenges outlined by Ofcom. The roll-out in rural areas, decreasing ‘city not-spots’ and making plans for ultrafast broadband were also highlighted by the report.
Ofcom said that more is being done to improve mobile services in the UK. The regulator said it could impose a license obligation to guarantee 4G coverage for 98% of the country. It could also auction off additional spectrum that could be used to improve capacity.
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: “Digital infrastructure is crucial to the UK’s future. As a country we are continuing to make real progress, particularly in the roll out and take-up of superfast broadband and 4G mobile services. But there is more to be done. We need to continue asking whether collectively we are doing enough to build the infrastructure of the future, and to maintain the competition that benefits consumers and businesses.
"The way consumers interact with their TV, phone and broadband is changing as fast as technology is evolving. Our challenge is to keep supporting competition and innovation, while also helping to improve coverage across the country - particularly in hard-to-reach areas where mobile and home internet services need to improve.”
John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Today’s Infrastructure Report shows that telecoms services are improving, but more needs to be done to increase small firms access to super fast broadband. We are pleased that for the first time, the report recognises the needs of small businesses are distinct to those of the residential market. Ofcom is also right to back our call to highlight the importance of upload speeds, which is of as much importance for business as download speeds and we agree that the Universal Service Commitment should be updated.
“Reliable broadband is a critical business need. It has become the Fourth Utility, as vital to businesses as electricity, gas or water. The clear message from today’s report is that not all small businesses are getting the broadband services they require. Only 56 per cent of UK SMEs with employees have access to super fast broadband, compared to 75% of all UK consumers.
“Service providers need to make sure that small business customers are not just an afterthought. The Government needs to show much greater ambition for UK broadband if we are going to tap the growth potential of small firms and be a contender in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.”
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