CBI/KPMG: Outlook good for UK digital

The overwhelming majority of UK companies are very positive about improvements that have been made to UK digital networks in recent years and are confident that the trend will continue. According to the CBI/KPMG infrastructure survey 2012, Better connected, better business, 82 per cent of companies feel that networks are in a better state than five years ago and a similar proportion (79 per cent) are confident that this trend will continue over the next five years.

Over 80 per cent of businesses surveyed said the quality and reliability of digital connectivity has a significant impact on their investment decisions. Comparing the UK’s digital infrastructure against that of other countries, 40 per cent of respondents feel that the UK networks outshine those in other parts of the world while just 27 per cent think they are behind the curve internationally. And over half of companies (54 per cent) with operations in over 50 countries feel that the UK’s digital infrastructure is ahead of international benchmarks.

David Elms, KPMG’s Head of Media, commented “Given the increasing role of faster and reliable fixed and mobile web access in facilitating business growth and investment decisions, these figures are encouraging and prove that significant progress has been achieved in the provision of digital infrastructure in the UK.”

“The launch of next generation wireless mobile broadband infrastructure (4G) and the penetration of ‘superfast’ fibre-based broadband is increasingly critical for UK media companies as they move to digital distribution models. Without the immediacy of consumption, associated with super fast speeds, digital media will lag those countries where speed of delivery is increasingly the norm and this will impede the competitive development of our media businesses on the global stage.”

The survey shows that digital infrastructure seems to be the ‘bright spot’, opinions on the overall state of the UK infrastructure are less positive. The research included responses from 568 business leaders during June and July, and identified transport, energy and water infrastructure as the area of greatest concern. The majority of firms (two-thirds) also said they believe the UK’s infrastructure will not improve over the next five years.

While the survey paints a positive picture of the state of the UK’s digital infrastructure in general, it also suggests key areas in which it could be improved. While a third (34 per cent) of companies feel that the UK’s fixed-line and mobile networks are above average in terms of breadth and reliability, views on the speed were far less positive. 50 per cent of respondents said the speed of fixed-line networks in the UK was just average and 24 per cent felt it was below average. The figures for UK mobile networks were similar, 48 per cent said it was average, 34 per cent below average.

Milan Sallaba, KPMG’s Head of TMT Advisory, commented :“With next generation wireless mobile broadband infrastructure (4G) yet to launch commercially in the UK, and penetration of ‘superfast’ fibre-based broadband lines lagging behind some nations, the UK still has a way to go to catch up with leading countries.”

“However, with further investments a priority for most major network-based communications companies in the UK, the gap is likely to decrease in the coming years. The government, in particular, should be mindful to ensure that the existing regulatory frameworks support commercial business cases for country-wide investment, and that slow administrative processes continue to be tackled to support the efficient roll-out of new infrastructure.”

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