The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), the government's advisory group on broadband, says uncertainties surrounding next generation broadband must be resolved within two years, or UK competitiveness may suffer and the digital divide will widen.
The BSG has published a report on the situation, and says the UK risks falling behind the likes of Germany and France on data access speeds if the industry does not act.
The report says the UK's current and planned broadband infrastructure may not meet the future needs of the most intensive users, and that it can not be assumed that the market will continue to deliver the ever-increasing bandwidth that many content providers and users increasingly expect.
“There seems to be little prospect for the widespread deployment of next generation broadband in the UK at present, although the benefits to the economy could be significant,” says the report.
The report makes several recommendations that could change the situation. It calls on the government to establish a target to ensure that by 2012, the UK remains in the upper quartile of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in terms of the quality and reach of broadband services.
The report also recommends that Ofcom sets out the principles of its regulatory approach to next generation access within the next 12 months, in order to achieve the right balance of investment incentives and competition needed for the market to deploy next generation broadband.
Kip Meek, BSG chairman said, “Broadband is key to the UK economy and has a critical impact on many people's daily lives. We have a limited window of opportunity: if steps are not taken now to prepare for next generation broadband, then we may well find ourselves in a position where it is too late to catch up.”
Common basic broadband speeds currently available in the UK are around 8mbps, with the promise of up 24mbps for some users in the next 18 months or so, using existing copper wiring.
Ofcom is considering whether the industry should look more closely at faster fibre broadband solutions.
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