Government fears UK could be left behind in comms race

The government is concerned that the UK could be left behind in the race to adopt new IP access technologies.

The government is concerned that the UK could be left behind in the race to adopt new IP access technologies.

At this week’s annual Communications Management Association conference, telecoms regulator Ofcom estimated that by the end of this year, around 40% of France’s infrastructure traffic will be linked to voice over IP communications.

France has invested heavily in IP-based networks in recent years and the VoIP take-up figure, along with take-up for next generation services such as video to the desktop, is much higher than in the UK.

A major driving force for the high adoption rates in France is the widespread availability of “triple play” service packages which cover voice, data and video over the same connection.

Triple play has barely made an appearance in the UK so far, with few BT exchanges being modified to cope with such service bundles.

In a message to the CMA conference, Alun Michael, minister for industry and the regions, praised the appearance of triple play services in France which cost around £20 a month based on a 20mbps connection.

In the UK, users pay around £18 a month for just a broadband line operating at 2mbps, with no voice or video service.

Michael, who had intended to address the conference, but pulled out because of parliamentary business, said he wanted closer co-operation in the industry to address broadband service shortfalls in the UK.

The minister did back a conference call to discuss Ofcom’s ongoing telecoms review on 7 March in London.

Nigel Hickson, DTI head of European e-commerce and telecoms, told the conference that Michael was concerned about the UK “reaching a plateau” when it came to broadband adoption.

Hickson said that despite broadband now being available to 99% of the population, there were around a third of UK homes with no type of internet connection at all, and that cost factors were not the only reason.

“The worrying thing is that many of these people perhaps don’t see any reason why they should be connected to the internet,” said Hickson.

The government, which wants all citizens to adopt e-commerce to access e-services, sees triple play as an important driver for greater broadband adoption.  

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