The UK’s Institute of Directors (IoD) has called for a new target for households and business to have access to speeds of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) by 2030 — 1,000 times faster than the current official aim of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2020.
In a new report called Ultrafast Britain, the IoD said that while UK was a world leader in the internet economy, it was lagging behind many European nations when it came to installing the fibre optic cables that allow for the fastest broadband connections.
For example, the IoD said Lithuania, with an economy one third the size of the UK’s per head, has fibre connections reaching a third of premises. In Britain, the figure is a fraction of one per cent.
Most of Lithuania’s fibre network was put in place by small providers, or Altnets, after the country’s telecoms regulator gave them cheap access to the poles and ducts which carry the cables, the IoD said.
The IoD said the potential benefits to UK businesses of better broadband are massive.
About 78% of directors surveyed said significantly faster broadband speeds would increase the company’s productivity, 60% thought it would make their business more competitive, and 51% felt that faster broadband would enable them to offer more flexible working to their staff.
Dan Lewis, senior advisor on infrastructure policy at the IoD, and author of the report, said: “Now is the time to set a bold new target for genuinely world-beating broadband.
“We have the leading internet economy in the G20, and yet download speeds are mediocre and the coverage of fibre optic cable is woeful.
“The demand for data is growing exceptionally fast, and with Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things just around the corner, about to grow even faster.
“But our network is behind the curve. Unfortunately, the Government’s current target displays a distinct poverty of ambition.
“We expect them to meet the Universal Service Obligation of 10 mbps by 2020, but only because they’ve set themselves such a low bar.
“Instead of spending money two or three times over on incremental upgrades to the historic copper network, politicians need to look ahead at how we are going to provide the physical infrastructure needed to maintain Britain’s position at the forefront of digital innovation in business.”