UK businesses suffer from lack of broadband

ITworld.com –

Businesses in the U.K. are not only frustrated in their attempts to obtain reliable broadband Internet services, but a growing number of those businesses are asserting that they are suffering financially as a result, according to a survey released this week.

Seventy-one percent of those polled believe their own businesses and public service organizations are being adversely affected by the lack of broadband services, according to the yearly survey published by the Communications Management Association (CMA). In comparison, last year 45 percent of respondents claimed that they wanted to use broadband services and were suffering because they couldn't, the CMA said.

The nonprofit U.K. communication user association, which claims to represent 2,000 corporate users of telecommunication services, has been publishing its communication market survey for the past nine years.

For the 2001 survey, 550 senior communication professionals in both the private and public sectors responded to the CMA poll conducted last July, the CMA said.

The survey results are in complete contrast to claims by British Telecommunications PLC (BT), which has contended for a number of months that the dearth of broadband services in the U.K. is directly due to a lack of consumer interest.

"Where are the customers for local loop unbundling?" BT asks on its Web site. "BT Wholesale is ready, willing and able to take any orders for access to BT's local phone lines -- but demand has evaporated," the BT site says.

The U.K. national telecommunication regulator, the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel), in August determined that BT's rivals need access to the local loop, the "last mile" of copper wiring that connects individual businesses and consumers to the network to begin offering competitive broadband services.

In the CMA survey, 89 percent of those polled want BT to be forced to speed the rollout of broadband services such as ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line).

"As many as seven in 10 of our larger companies are saying that lack of broadband in the local loop is inhibiting their business. This is almost twice as many as 12 months ago and represents a sorry state of affairs for those of us who, along with government, want to see this country as number one in Europe for e-business infrastructure by 2005. For BT to assert that informed major business customers are wrongly focused on the U.K,'s slow progress in local loop unbundling would appear misguided," said CMA chairman John Wright in the report.

U.K. businesses also appear to be adopting IP (Internet Protocol) networks in large numbers. Of the corporate IT users responding to the poll, 92 percent saw IP technology as having a central role in their own data communication strategies, while 65 percent of all respondents claim data traffic has already exceeded voice on their own networks, the CMA said.

On average, the survey found that its members have increased their annual spending on "e-business" in 2001 to 3.7 million pounds (US$5.4 million) per company, up from 3.4 million pounds in 2000, the CMA said.

According to 58 percent of respondents, businesses are implementing Internet-based services due to a need for "achievable cost reductions and improved services," while 51 percent categorized e-business as "an important tool to respond to competitors," the CMA said.

Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said the main stumbling block in the uptake of e-business was the integration of products and services with existing systems, the CMA said.

The CMA, in Leatherhead, England, can be contacted at +44-137-236-1234, or at http://www.thecma.com/. BT, in London, is at +44-20-7356-5000, or http://www.bt.com/.

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