Network at the heart of Digital Britain

Network infrastructure will form a key element of the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform's (BERR) plan for Digital Britain, which was released last month.

Network infrastructure will form a key element of the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform’s (BERR) plan for Digital Britain, which was released last month.

The government has made no secret of its desire to see the UK at the forefront of the worldwide digital economy, and one of its key objectives is to supply broadband to every home in the country before the 2012 London Olympics.

There was plenty in the report to give networking dealers and integrators some cheer in these tough times. According to communications, technology and broadcasting minister Steven Carter the UK comms sector ranks third in size alongside energy and financial services, with the overall digital economy accounting for 8% of our GDP. Our take-up of first generation broadband has been above that of most other economies, and it is anticipated that by 2012, a fifth of all new commerce in Britain will be online.

The challenge now is to maintain and develop these leads, particularly against the US, where Barack Obama has made technology a cornerstone of his administration.

Top priorities will be commitments to push upgrades to next generation networks (NGNs), create a second public service provider of scale, modernise wireless radio spectrum holdings and ensure a digital future for radio, create a new deal for digital rights management (DRM), and enhance online delivery of public services.

Industry watchers have been mulling over the ramifications of the government’s vision, with many stepping up to make their own recommendations in support of the plan.

Cisco’s UK managing director Phil Smith welcomed the preliminary report and called on the government to include the channel.

“Cisco is a global company with an established business in the UK. The report speaks of a richer dialogue between government and industry, which I’d strongly support. We need to work together to harness the full mix of ideas, investment, infrastructure and skills,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deloitte research director Paul Lee predicted that mobile broadband would need to form a key part of the government’s plans
for it to keep its promises.

“The business case for each technology deployed is inevitably going to vary by geography, with the most remote rural areas best reached by mobile networks,” he said, adding that the government would need to back up its universal access proposal with relevant content if it expected to see universal usage.

Scott Barlow, product manager for internet, online distribution and media services at NGN specialist Interoute, drew attention to the challenges around DRM. He acknowledged that consumers needed to be able to freely use legitimate content, while artists needed to profit from it, but said that too many people still struggle to manage the movement of online materials once they have been downloaded.

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