CMA: UK communications spend up despite downturn

UK spending on communications is up this year despite widespread reports of an industry downturn, according to the annual survey...

UK spending on communications is up this year despite widespread reports of an industry downturn, according to the annual survey from the Communications Managers Association.

The CMA, whose members run communications networks for major organisations, said its members were being forced by market uncertainty to choose safe options for service supply.

"It is reassuring to see a significant increase in spend on ICT and e-business," says CMA chairman Carolyn Kimber. "This result flies in the face of the doom and gloom dominating our industry."

Other headline findings from the annual survey revealed continued frustration with the rate at which BT was rolling out broadband, and a split about whether 3G would ever be a viable business service.

The CMA polled 422 information and communications technology professionals from businesses and organisations across the public and private sector for the survey.

It showed service quality was still top of customers' agendas, ahead of fault repair and complaint handling and price.

Colt and WorldCom were the best performers in the fixed communications market, both scoring 7.0 on a scale from zero to 10. NTL scored 6.6 and both BT and Energis achieved 6.5. Respondents said the key players had room for improvement but satisfaction levels were generally higher than last year.

In the mobile sector, the quality of service at Orange was highest rated, followed by Vodafone. The overall trend showed some improvement on last year.

The survey revealed frustration at the role of government regulator Oftel, with 78% of the senior communications professionals responding to the survey believed that Oftel had only delivered effective competition in the major conurbations. This compares with 80% in 2001 and 74% in 2000.

"The CMA commented that the implication here was that the regulator had failed to deliver competition where it was most needed.

Similar frustration was expressed about the roll out of broadband. The Government this week announced the UK now had one million broadband users, but 87% of those polled by the CMA thought BT was not doing enough to speed up the deployment of fast Internet access.

The CMA's Kimber said, "The Government and regulator have once again failed to provide constructive help in the delivery of a broadband infrastructure and, as a result, UK businesses are missing out."

In a further worrying sign for the telecoms companies that have invested billions in next-generation network licences, almost half the survey respondents thought 3G would be a redundant technology before it emerges as a business service.

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