The telecoms industry has failed to respond to the needs of the business community, according to new Communications Management Association (CMA) chairman Carolyn Kimber, who has called for comms regulator Ofcom and the government to act.
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She used the issues of mobile roaming costs, inadequate broadband access and next generation network uncertainties to illustrate her point. She said slow progress in all three areas was hindering the green and flexible working agendas of business.
Kimber said, “When we ask for reasonable and affordable tariffs for international roaming we are not advocating more international travel. We are simply saying that there are times when business users have no choice but to travel, and they must be able to enjoy all the benefits of the trends towards fixed mobile convergence.”
The EC plans to cap the amounts mobile operators can charge each other for handling calls from customers from different companies, but mobile operators have been slow to reduce the call charges for customers roaming on their own networks.
On broadband, Kimber said, “By the time we wake up to the business case for fibre to the home, we will be 15 years behind international competitors who are doing it now.
“We must ask what the poverty of shoestring broadband is doing for the UK economy and the green agenda.”
The CMA’s annual member survey shows there is still dissatisfaction among companies over broadband access.
The survey, based on responses from 355 of the CMA’s members, showed that 41% of businesses and public sector organisations could not get broadband where they needed it.
This figure was down from 54% last year, but will still be a disappointment to BT and the government, which claim that broadband is available to 99% of the population.
The 41% who say they don’t have adequate access to broadband are mainly referring to “vanilla” or standard broadband. When it comes to specific business broadband services like SDSL, which offers the same sending speed as access speed, 73% said they couldn’t get SDSL where they needed it.
As a result of CMA pressure last year over next generation services - particularly those connected to BT’s roll-out of its £10bn 21st Century Network - the dialogue between business users and suppliers had improved, said Kimber, but there were still issues around timescales, equipment compatibility and security that needed to be resolved, she said.
Kimber appealed to Ofcom and the government to recognise that the needs of business enterprises – large and small – must be properly reflected in public policy.
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