Research on Broadband and Business in Scotland. A report to the Scottish Government

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1 Research on Broadband and Business in Scotland A report to the Scottish Government March 2011

2 Research on Broadband and Business in Scotland A report to the Scottish Government March 2011 The Scottish Government, Edinburgh 2011

3 Crown copyright 2011 ISBN: (web only) The Scottish Government St Andrew s House Edinburgh EH1 3DG Produced for the Scottish Government by APS Group Scotland DPPAS11234 (03/11) Published by the Scottish Government, March 2011

4 TABLE OF CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY... I 1 INTRODUCTION... 1 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES... 1 STUDY APPROACH... 2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS... 2 REPORT STRUCTURE CONTEXT... 4 THE POLICY AGENDA... 4 TRENDS IN BROADBAND SUPPLY AND UPTAKE... 5 BUSINESS BENEFITS OF BROADBAND AND NGA BROADBAND... 6 SUMMARY SAMPLE PROFILE AND COMPANY CHARACTERISTICS DEVELOPING THE SAMPLE AND DATABASE KEY MESSAGES TAKE-UP AND MEANS OF CONNECTION CONNECTING TO THE INTERNET REASONS FOR USING DIAL UP SUPPLIERS BROADBAND SPEED AWARENESS OF BROADBAND AND BROADBAND APPLICATIONS IMPORTANCE OF RELIABLE HIGH SPEED BROADBAND ICT SUPPORT KEY MESSAGES CURRENT USE OF BROADBAND BY BUSINESSES IN SCOTLAND APPLICATIONS CONSTRAINTS SPECIALIST USERS SATISFACTION WITH INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER (ISP) KEY MESSAGES FUTURE DEMAND FOR BROADBAND ANTICIPATED FUTURE USE OF BROADBAND WILLINGNESS TO PAY KEY MESSAGES CONCLUSIONS

5 ANNEX A: TRENDS IN BROADBAND SUPPLY AND UPTAKE TRENDS AND ISSUES IN BROADBAND TAKE-UP AND USE RECENT TRENDS IN BROADBAND SUPPLY INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS ANNEX B: BUSINESS QUESTIONNAIRE ANNEX C: INTERVIEW PROFILE AND WEIGHTING BY SIC COMPANY CHARACTERISTICS OF BUSINESSES SURVEYED ANNEX D: SPECIALIST USERS

6 Executive Summary Aims and objectives Adoption and use of broadband has increased rapidly in recent years, as internet and broadband is increasingly viewed as a fundamental tool for the majority of businesses. Up-todate research on how businesses in Scotland use broadband to support their activities, and in particular how this varies by business type or sector, is however limited. There is also limited evidence on the extent to which Scottish businesses currently feel constrained by the speed of or access to broadband and how this varies by geographical area. Although there has been some theoretical research on the benefits of faster, Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband, there is little understanding of the expectations of businesses themselves as to how they might exploit faster broadband in the coming years. The main objectives of this research project were to test the extent to which small and medium sized businesses in Scotland are optimising the utilisation of the broadband they have access to; to explore the degree to which constraints are being experienced with current broadband connectivity; and to assess the case for future improvements in broadband capacity based on opportunities for business growth and improved productivity. Approach The substantive element of the research consisted of a telephone survey of 1,000 small and medium sized (SME) businesses in Scotland (i.e. those employing up to 250 people) which took place in autumn The survey was designed to be representative of Scotland s business base, allowing disaggregation by business size, broad sectors, and by rural/urban classification. The numbers of businesses within this business population are dominated by micro-businesses (i.e. those employing 0-9 staff), however it is important to note when interpreting results that the businesses employing staff account for a relatively more significant proportion of overall turnover and employees. The research was not designed to survey large companies, however these are likely to be leaders in the adoption of higher broadband speeds and associated applications and also account for a relatively significant part of total employees and turnover in the Scottish economy. Key findings: internet and broadband take-up Survey findings indicate that 95% of businesses with employees connect to the internet. When considering the broader business base the survey finds however that a quarter of Scottish SME businesses (i.e. those employing employees) do not use the internet. There are therefore significant differences in internet take-up across business size and in particular among micro-businesses (those employing 0-9 employees), where only 72% of businesses connect to the internet. There are also significant differences in internet uptake by sector, with uptake of just 56% in production sectors, rising to 79% among service based businesses and 83% among manufacturing businesses. The majority of businesses that do not use the internet perceive that the internet would be of limited benefit to the organisation. Some of these businesses use a home-based computer to undertake a limited number of basic internet-based processes (such as tax returns), but do not use the internet more widely. A fifth of businesses that do not use the internet said a lack i

7 of skills acts as a barrier to taking-up internet. In comparison, 13% of non-users indicated cost as an issue and only 1% indicated that internet/broadband availability was a factor. 20% of those businesses who do not currently use the internet indicated that they will begin doing so in the next 2-3 years. This suggests however that the remaining businesses do not perceive that the role of the internet in managing their business will change fundamentally in the near future. Of those businesses which do connect to the internet, the vast majority have broadband (as opposed to dial-up) access through a fixed ADSL or cable line as their main means of connection. A small minority of businesses are still using dial-up to access the internet. Very few SME businesses in Scotland currently have a leased line (1.5%) or connect via SDSL. Some 5% use mobile broadband (using a handheld mobile device or a dongle connected to a laptop) as their main means of connection to the internet, and this is more frequently the case for smaller businesses. Results of a speed test, conducted with businesses during the survey, indicates a mean download speed of 5.56 Mbps, and a mean upload speed of 0.86 Mbps. Mean download and upload speeds were lower in remote rural areas (3.6 Mbps download and 0.34 Mbps upload), however speeds in accessible rural areas were found to be closer to those in urban areas. Key messages: broadband use and ICT applications ICT utilisation can form an important part of realising productivity and growth opportunities enabled by internet and broadband use. In this survey, three quarters of businesses that use the internet feel that they are reasonably or very well informed about broadband generally, and about how broadband applications can enhance business competitiveness. However, the remaining businesses feel less well informed, including a small cohort (6%) who feel not at all well informed. Smaller businesses, and those in remote rural areas tend to feel on average less well informed. On the whole businesses perceive that reliable, high-speed broadband is important to the operation of their business. 58% feel that it is very important, while 29% feel that it is quite important. Only 12% feel that it is not very or not at all important. Nearly all businesses which have a broadband connection use it for and the internet browsing. 67% of businesses that use internet have their own website, and this is equivalent to 50% of the entire sample, although the sample used for this research (micro-businesses and other SMEs) means that caution should be applied in comparing this figure with that from other research, which survey larger businesses or exclude micro businesses. There are significant differences by business size in terms of website use, with 86% of internet using businesses employing people having a website, compared to 63% of internet using micro-businesses. Over two thirds of internet using businesses never or seldom need to download or upload large video, image or sound files. One fifth of businesses say they need to download or upload large files regularly or all the time. Although most businesses are currently using broadband largely for communication and internet searching there is evidence that demand for more advanced applications such as cloud computing will continue to grow. Around one quarter of businesses which use the ii

8 internet already make use of cloud computing or externally hosted software. Service based companies are more likely to use externally hosted software than are businesses in other sectors, and SME businesses are more likely to use externally hosted software than microbusinesses. One fifth of companies who don t currently use externally hosted software believe they will begin to in the next two years, while a quarter of businesses are unsure. Relatively few businesses which are connected to the internet use more specialist applications. One fifth use broadband to permit remote access to company files, and one fifth use social media tools. Around 12% use supply-chain management tools, and around 15% have an intranet. The survey indicates that use of these applications will grow steadily but not dramatically over the next two years reflecting some uncertainty among businesses about future technological trends, and the difficulties posed by the recession. Key findings: constraints perceived by businesses An important consideration for this research is the extent to which businesses feel that the speed of their current internet connection constrains the way that they use the internet and related applications. The research shows that although the majority, 60%, of businesses, do not feel constrained at all by their connection speed; a quarter feel constrained slightly, and 11% believe they are constrained significantly. Importantly, businesses who anticipate that they will grow substantially over the next 2-3 years are twice as likely to feel that they are significantly constrained by the speed of their current internet connection compared to businesses with more moderate growth objectives. In general, businesses appear to be relatively satisfied with the level of service from their Internet Service Provider (ISP), although satisfaction with price and connection speed was somewhat lower in remote areas. Reliability and connection speed tend to be perceived as the most important factors to business in selecting their ISP, just ahead of price. Customer service and technical support from the ISP were ranked as being less important factors. Key findings: future demand for broadband Almost two thirds of businesses think they will use broadband and its applications to a greater extent over the next five years. Over the shorter timespan of 2-3 years, 45%, think that they will seek a faster broadband connection. Businesses with significant growth expectations over the next 2-3 years are significantly more likely to say that they anticipate using broadband for a greater range of functions. Of those businesses that are quite likely or very likely to seek a faster broadband connection, the main perceived benefits of faster connection are faster file transfer and enhanced productivity. Again, businesses with significant growth expectations are more likely to anticipate seeking a faster broadband connection over the next 2-3 years. Willingness to pay for faster broadband was also considered as part of the survey. One third of businesses are prepared to pay for a broadband service that is ten times as fast as their current connection, although many businesses are unsure how to place a value on faster connection speed. Analysis of qualitative comments made by businesses during the survey indicates that findings on willingness to pay in some instances reflects dissatisfaction about the fact that businesses pay for an up to xmbps service but in general receive a lower broadband speed for the majority of the working day. The findings also reflect an expectation among businesses iii

9 that speeds will continue to increase in future, as they have done during the past few years. However, the willingness to pay findings may also reflect some uncertainty among businesses as to how they will use broadband differently in future. Conclusions It is clear that most businesses in Scotland (and nearly all of those employing ten or more) use broadband regularly and see it as a fundamental component of organisational performance. Most businesses are currently using broadband largely for communication and internet searching. However, use of more advanced applications such as cloud computing are growing, and almost half of Scottish businesses think that they will require a faster broadband connection speed over the next 2-3 years. One third of businesses which use the internet feel either slightly constrained or significantly constrained by their connection speed. Importantly, businesses who anticipate growing over the next 2-3 years are more likely to feel constrained by the speed of their current connection, more likely to think that they will use broadband for a greater range of functions, and more likely to anticipate seeking a faster broadband connection over the same time period. This demonstrates the critical role that faster broadband will play in supporting the businesses which are expected to underpin economic growth and productivity in Scotland s economy in future years. It also illustrates that Scotland s growth will become increasingly constrained unless the capacity of existing infrastructure improves to meet future demand. Despite this, there is some uncertainty among businesses as to exactly how they would benefit from faster broadband (other than simply being able to do things more quickly), and evidence that many businesses are not making as much use of broadband as they could. This is to a large extent unsurprising, and similar levels of uncertainty about the benefits of first generation access were expressed before use of and internet became ubiquitous. The fact that some businesses are constrained by broadband speed, while others are not yet exploiting broadband to its full potential, suggests a dual role for public sector intervention. Attempts to improve the capacity of the existing infrastructure must also be met by efforts to increase exploitation of broadband by the business base. Some businesses in the survey have indicated a willingness to pay for faster broadband, and despite the inherent uncertainties in the market, a third indicated that they are willing to pay for connection that is ten time faster than their current connection. The research findings confirm the critical role that the majority of businesses place on reliable, high speed access. Although there are some businesses, in particular micro-sized businesses, which have not connected to the internet, there is evidence that for many businesses, the level of access available is already falling short of requirements and that they anticipate demand to grow for improved broadband services. iv

10 1 Introduction 1.1 Research has indicated that broadband and its applications bring significant benefits to business, leading to enhanced productivity and competitiveness. Faster broadband, and Next Generation Access in particular, are anticipated to bring greater benefits still, enabling businesses to exploit new opportunities in new markets However, uptake and use of broadband is evolving rapidly, and there is little up-todate evidence available on how businesses in Scotland are using broadband now, and what businesses demand for faster broadband in future is likely to be. This research aims to address this issue explicitly and improve understanding through primary research with Scottish businesses to understand use of and demand for, current and next generation broadband. 1.3 GEN was appointed by the Scottish Government in June 2010 to undertake research on broadband and businesses in Scotland. The work was delivered by GEN in collaboration with Research Resource and Targeting Innovation. This is a final report of the study findings. Aims and objectives 1.4 Research commissioned by the Scottish Government and published in January 2007 concluded that the economic productivity benefits from broadband come largely from currentgeneration broadband. The report found that the benefits of upgrading to higher bandwidth were relatively smaller. As will be described later in the report however, market and policy conditions have evolved significantly since this work was produced. The European Union has set an aspiration for universal access to 30Mbps broadband by 2020, whilst some of the major suppliers of broadband in the UK have announced plans to roll-out fibre-optic broadband services substantially enhancing network performance. 1.5 The aim of this piece of research has been to build on this research, and in so doing to provide the Scottish Government with an updated evidence base upon which it may begin to inform a new strategy in Scotland. 1.6 The original research brief, issued by the Scottish Government in May 2010, identified the main objectives for the research as being to: Test the extent to which Scotland s businesses are optimising skilled utilisation of the broadband that they currently have and its related ICT applications; Clarify the extent, if any, to which current broadband connectivity is constraining business; Assess what, if any, case there is for future improvements in broadband capacity for business, based on opportunities for business growth and improved productivity; and Provide suggestions on the potential role, if any, for the Scottish Government and its agencies, working with Councils and other public and private sector partners, to improve skilled optimisation of current-generation broadband and ICT, based on the findings of the research undertaken. 1 See for example, A framework for evaluating the value of Next Generation Broadband a report by Plum Consulting for the Broadband Stakeholder Group (June 2008). 1

11 Study approach 1.7 The approach to the work was set out in GEN s proposal, and refined during subsequent discussion with the steering group. The research has involved: A review of existing research and literature looking at the potential benefits to business of faster broadband, and next generation broadband in particular; A telephone survey of 1,000 micro and SME businesses in Scotland. This was the key element of the research. The survey was designed to be statistically representative of Scotland s micro and SME business base, taking into account the size, sectoral split and geographical location of businesses. It examined current and planned utilisation of broadband and its applications by Scottish businesses, and their willingness to pay for upgraded broadband services. Unlike other previous business surveys examining broadband take-up, this survey is unique in that it includes microbusinesses, not just those with ten or more employees. A copy of the questionnaire is in Annex B. A series of consultations with key market stakeholders including those representing both supply and demand sides. Stakeholders included policy staff at Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, senior figures at various Internet Service Providers, and representatives of companies that provide cloud computing services. The development of a number of more in-depth case-studies of individual companies, to examine particular issues in the use of broadband by businesses in Scotland. Acknowledgements 1.8 It would not have been possible to complete this work without the inputs and support of the study steering group. We would also like to thank all those stakeholders who took the time to input to the study, and to the businesses who took part in our telephone survey. Report structure 1.9 The remainder of the report is structured as follows: Section 2 reviews existing research in three areas: current take-up and use of broadband and its applications in Scotland and the UK; the supply of generation access broadband in Scotland; and the potential benefits of next generation broadband to businesses. Section 3 describes the approach to surveying businesses, including the development of a robust sample and database. The section also provides an overview of the characteristics of businesses who responded to the survey. Sections 4, 5 and 6 provide an analysis of survey findings with Scottish Companies. Section 4 explores patterns in business take-up of broadband, including analysis of method of connection and broadband speeds accessed. Section 5 examines how businesses use broadband, including the type of applications they used, and the extent to which they feel constrained by the level of access they have to broadband, 2

12 or their skills in utilising it. Section 6 examines future demand for broadband, including businesses willingness to pay for access to faster broadband. Section 7 summarises the findings and concludes with an assessment of the level of demand for NGA broadband. 3

13 2 Context 2.1 This section seeks to understand the potential benefits to business of current and next generation broadband. It provides a review of literature relating to the adoption of broadband by Scottish businesses, and the potential benefits of Next Generation Access (NGA) 2 drawing on findings from other existing studies and surveys. It covers the following themes: Current policy priorities, at European, UK and Scottish levels, relating to broadband and Next Generation Access broadband in particular; A summary of key issues relating to the supply and take-up of broadband by businesses in Scotland; and A review of the potential benefits to businesses of NGA. The policy agenda 2.2 At European level, the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade is set out in Europe This sets out a vision for the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. A key element of Europe 2020 will be the delivery of the Digital Agenda for Europe 3, the aim of which is to deliver sustainable economic and social benefits from a digital single market based on fast and ultra fast internet and interoperable applications. The Digital Agenda establishes three principle targets for the coming decade: Broadband access for all by 2013 Access for all to much higher internet speeds (30 Mbps or above) by 2020; and 50% or more of European households with internet connections above 100 Mbps, also by The Coalition Government has recently established Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) as the delivery body for broadband policies. BDUK aims to ensure that, within this parliament, Britain has the best superfast broadband network in Europe. But it will also work to achieve a Universal Service Commitment of 2Mbps by the end of the Parliament, ensuring connectivity to those areas without a basic level of broadband access. Achievement of this target will be met through regionally led projects, including a number of recently announced pilot projects. 2.4 The UK Government announced in October 2010 that the Highlands and Islands area would be one of the UK superfast broadband market testing pilots. The Scottish Government supported the Highlands & Islands Enterprise-led bid for one of the UK Government's superfast broadband pilots to be based in the region, the total commitment for which is expected to exceed 30 million. The project is anticipated to provide a valuable learning opportunity for how this model might be replicated elsewhere in Scotland, and other parts of the UK. 2.5 In December 2010 the UK Government published Britain s Superfast Broadband Future. This re-iterates the commitment to making a 2Mbps service available to all, and ensuring that the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe by It notes 2 Throughout this section, Next Generation Access is defined as broadband with a speed greater than 24 megabits per second (Mbps) 3 A Digital Agenda for Europe. Commission Communication COM(2010) 245 final/2 4

14 that achievement of this objective cannot be technology neutral, but will rely on a mix of fixed, mobile and satellite technologies. And it recognises that the benefits of superfast broadband have an impact across the whole economy whether this is through greater scope for teleworking and home-working, which reduces the pressure on the transport network and lowers carbon emissions, or better delivery of public services such as remote education services. 2.6 The Scottish Government published A Digital Ambition for Scotland in October This sets out an ambition for Scotland s digital future that: Next generation broadband will be available to all by 2020 (reflecting the wider EU target set-out above), and significant progress will be made by 2015; and The rate of broadband uptake by people in Scotland should be at or above the UK average by 2013, and should be highest among the UK nations by The Scottish Government is working with the UK government (which has reserved responsibilities for broadband infrastructure), and other partners, to determine how these targets can be most effectively achieved, and to ensure the best possible results for Scotland. Trends in broadband supply and uptake 2.8 Annex A provides a detailed overview of issues relating to the supply and uptake of broadband in Scotland. Here, we summarise some of the key findings for reference. 2.9 In terms of supply of fixed current generation broadband infrastructure, most indicators suggest that the UK performs favourably against many of its EU counterparts. In recent years, consumers have benefited from falling price plans and increases in average download speeds. However, although broadband delivered over standard telephony lines is available to 99% of homes and commercial premises in Scotland, factors such as line length and congestion can lead to a poor quality of service, particularly in more remote areas where average line length is longer. This reduces the availability of a basic level 2Mbps service. Use of mobile broadband continues to grow, and while the speeds offered by mobile operators do not resemble NGA services at present, wireless technologies are likely to play an important role in delivering NGA in the UK, and may be more cost effective to deploy than fixed line technologies in some rural areas In terms of NGA supply, deployment of fibre-optic broadband in the UK is underway. Internet Service Providers are rolling out NGA services to parts of the UK, and various regulatory changes are underway to support this process. Currently however only 2.8% of broadband lines in the UK are above 30Mbps, while the equivalent figure for Europe is 4.4%; 22% of broadband lines in the UK are above 10Mbps, slightly lower than the equivalent figure for Europe of 24.4% In terms of uptake, the most recent data 6 on business ICT use in UK indicates that 86% of Scottish businesses (with five employees or more) use the Internet, which is slightly less than the UK average of 90%. Relatively little information exists about how businesses in 4 5 Broadband access in the EU: Situation at 1 July Communications Committee Working Document COCOM Ofcom, the Business Consumer Experience (2009) 5

15 Scotland specifically use the internet, but at UK level, businesses generally perform above the EU average in relation to indicators such as use of company websites and e-commerce There is an ongoing debate around the levels of public investment and intervention required to ensure effective roll-out of a fibre network for Scotland. The focus of this report however is not on supply of NGA, but on a business demand for NGA, and potential business benefits. Business benefits of broadband and NGA broadband Generic benefits 2.13 It has been found that companies adopting broadband-based processes can improve their employees labour productivity on average by 5% in the manufacturing sector and by 10% in the services sector 7. The MICUS report argues that development of broadband allows the acceleration and automation of information flows between companies, which enables an increased specialisation in knowledge-intensive activities A report by Eurostat 8 investigated the productivity benefits, across 13 EU countries, of the internet in relation to e-procurement, e-sales, and the benefits associated with employees being connected to the internet. The research found that a 10% increase in e-procurement in the manufacturing sector led to a 2.6% increase in productivity; a 10% increase in e-sales (in the retail sector) led to a 3.1% increase in productivity; and a 10% increase in the number of employees connected to the internet (in the financial services sector), led to a 0.9% increase in productivity Previous research for the Scottish Government conducted by SQW in 9 indicated that the economic benefits to businesses from broadband, over the period 2001 to 2015, come largely from current generation broadband. The benefits of upgrading to faster speeds (from known applications) were identified to be smaller and focussed on consumer markets and in entertainment and gaming However, as newer software is developed and use of broadband evolves, the case in favour of NGA becomes stronger. The main features of an NGA service compared to current generation broadband are 10 : Faster and more reliable download speeds; A greater degree of symmetry between the down- and up-links for the end user; Lower latency. 7 MICUS (2008). 8 Information Society: ICT impact assessment by linking data from different sources. Eurostat (2008). 9 SQW. Next Generation Broadband in Scotland (2007) 10 Caio report, ibid. 6

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