A beacon for broadband on the Isle of Man

With all eyes on Lord Carter's Digital...

With all eyes on Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, it is easy to forget how much more advanced the broadband network infrastructure is elsewhere.

The Isle of Man is an offshore tax haven one hour's flight from the city of London, and arguably has the best broadband and mobile network across the UK and the British Isles. Just 34 miles long with a population of about 80,000, the Isle of Man is smaller than many UK local authorities.

Broadband on the Isle of Man has powered the island's economy, prompting the growth of e-gaming and disaster recovery businesses.

"The political endorsement is there to drive eBusiness," says Tim Craine, director of eBusiness in the Treasury department of the Isle of Man Government. He has a £1m a year budget to market e-business on the island.

"The Isle of Man is serious about growing our e-business and IT sectors. For the size of the island we have a disproportionate amount of investment."

The island's telecommunications firm, Manx Telecom, is two-thirds of its way through a network upgrade called Next Generation Network (NGN), equivalent to BT's 21CN programme. Under the project Manx Telecom will replace legacy fixed, mobile and broadband networks with a converged network infrastructure.

By the end of the summer, all households on the island will have broadband, says Chris Hall, managing director of Manx Telecom.

Manx Telecom will offer a minimum broadband service of 5.6Mbps and mobile data access of 3.6Mbps. iPhone and Blackberry smartphone users will be able to take advantage of the boost in mobile bandwidth, which could see the growth in mobile e-gaming on the island.

Small businesses will benefit from VoIP Centrix technology, which means they no longer require complex PBX and network equipment onsite for telephony. "All the intelligence for VoIP is handled at Manx Telecom," says Cranes.

The Isle of Man's Department of Trade and Industry has joined up with Venda, which supplies ecommerce systems to major high street retailers such as Monsoon, to deliver what it sees as a cost-effective websites for retailers on the island.

"Retail is suffering on the island so we have launched a campaign to get retailers online," says Lisa Underwood, e-gaming development manager at the DTI. "Residents will be able to shop online [for local goods] and have then delivered by the post office the same day."

The Isle of Man's small size and small population means such services can be rolled out quickly. What the Isle of Man has to offer in terms of e-commerce and broadband cannot easily be replicated across the UK. But the Isle of Man does illustrate how local government can work with local businesses to deliver compelling broadband services to the local community.

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