1 Let s get digital! Harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK CBI on Infrastructure
3 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 3 Contents Foreword by Katja Hall, CBI 04 Executive summary 05 1 The roll-out of digital infrastructure is opening up new 08 growth opportunities across the country 2 Private investment in infrastructure supports a vibrant digital economy 16 in the UK and we must encourage businesses to do more with online services 3 For continued improvements to our digital infrastructure in the future, 20 we need coherent and co-ordinated policy 4 We need a strategy from Whitehall to cement our long-term position 28 as a world-beating digital economy Glossary 37 References 38
4 4 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK Digitalisation is the electrification of the 21st century time to build on our strengths to enable world-class networks to thrive Government ministers are often keen to evoke the Victorian age of ambition and discovery when talking about infrastructure, channelling the romantic image of the railway and steam to demonstrate that anything is possible if our ideas are big enough. The development of wide-scale electrification programmes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries took our rail networks to a new level, opening up new possibilities in terms of speed, connections and technology. Electrification transformed the way we did business, bringing people and markets closer together, connecting cities, building supply chains and ferrying goods around the country. Today, the boom in digital networks is having a similar, if not a greater transformational impact. The effect of even modest investment in digital technologies can revolutionise a business, communicating with customers in new and exciting ways, and opening the door to markets across the world in an instant. Yet it is rare to see government figures talking with the same passion and verve about the digital age or capturing the 21st century spirit. To me, this seems a missed opportunity. We know that our digital networks are vital to fuelling business investment and exports the twin engines for the UK s future growth. 1 Up and down the country, businesses talk to me about their plans for growing their operations, the technology they want to utilise and the digital infrastructure they need to bring these ideas to fruition. These businesses are not confined to a particular sector or region: the CBI s 2012 infrastructure survey showed that three in four businesses saw the quality and cost of the UK s digital networks as important to future investment decisions, on a par with transport and energy. 2 Combine this with recent Policy Exchange polling demonstrating that businesses see digital infrastructure in the government s top two priorities for spending behind only major roads and the message from industry could not be clearer. 3 With this report, I want to reinvigorate the debate about how we can continue to strengthen the UK s digital economy in the global market. It is time that we saw political vision to match the ambition of business, and put in place long-term strategies to achieve goals over the course of the next decade. From a standing start at the beginning of this Parliament, we find ourselves in a positive position with private providers driving improvements to our digital networks at a canter and, indeed, our digital infrastructure fares well internationally against many indicators. The quality and connectivity of our digital infrastructure is of national importance and we need to treat it as such in our policy making. If we are serious about seizing the opportunities that investment in our digital networks presents, let s get excited about today s possibilities and start thinking about just what we can achieve in the future. In short, let s get digital. Katja Hall CBI chief policy director
5 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 5 Executive summary In the global race for capital and customers, connectivity is key. Building the right connections with the right investors and at the right time can transform a business, enabling that firm to expand and compete in the global marketplace. For government, this means working to ensure that these connections can take place, creating an environment in which the right infrastructure can be built, in the right place, to the right specification. Much emphasis has been placed by the CBI and the government on the importance of direct transport links to boosting trade, especially in the context of the current impasse on the future of the UK s aviation capacity. But there is a more direct, instant connection that is revolutionising the way we do business and access markets, which must be fully recognised in the debate around infrastructure: the UK s expanding digital footprint. This report sets out the benefits driven by private investment in our digital infrastructure, assesses current government policy and puts forward a plan to harness the power of our networks for the benefit of business today and growth tomorrow. The roll-out of digital infrastructure is opening up new growth opportunities across the country Broader, faster digital networks yield countrywide economic benefits, injecting potential into every region of the UK. New connections support inward investment and job creation, while helping to nurture local businesses through access to new markets and new technology to improve commercial operations. On the ground, businesses are feeling a tangible difference to the services they are able to provide and the way they are able to interact with customers and clients. As the 2013 UK Attractiveness Survey indicates, retailers are continually employing digital platforms to reach consumers in new ways. 4 From flexible working to faster payments, smart-phones to smart-grids, investment in digital infrastructure is transforming our business environment, making us more connected than ever before. Furthermore, this investment can help deliver other types of crucial national infrastructure. Whether building a new road, school or housing development, high-quality digital connections can help contractors speed up the delivery of major projects. This digital infrastructure helps get sites up and running quickly and allows contractors to undertake modelling on the ground to amend designs and facilitate clear communication and information sharing with other sites across the world. As the government continues to deliberate the UK s future infrastructure needs and which projects should be prioritised, the UK s digital networks must sit as an equal partner in the infrastructure debate. Private investment in infrastructure supports a vibrant digital economy in the UK and we must encourage businesses to do more with online services In the last decade, private investment has driven the roll-out of our digital infrastructure and we will continue to look to the private sector to build on this progress over the next decade. The on-going expansion of the UK s digital footprint can only serve to further support our world-beating digital economy. Our consumers are prolific online shoppers, making the UK the largest e-commerce market in the world and offering huge potential for companies savvy enough to flex their business model to meet this demand. Moreover, UK businesses should be well-positioned to harness the commercial potential that stems from better connectivity. With prospects for future economic growth pinned to an investment and export-led recovery, it is vital that we encourage businesses to spread their wings online, accessing new markets through cross-border e-commerce and building new supply chains. Due to the on-going progress with network roll-out, the UK compares broadly well with our international counterparts on a number of indicators. First, the UK has the second highest percentage of households penetrated by fixed broadband among major economies. Second, the UK scores highly according to World Bank figures on the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people. Third, with on-going efforts from the private sector to roll-out superfast broadband to well over two-thirds of the population, the percentage of broadband subscriptions which count as superfast in the UK is now above both the EU average and Germany, France and Italy.
6 6 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK But to further cement the UK as a world-beater in the global digital economy, efforts must continue to bridge the gap between the coverage of urban and rural locations. Moreover, government and industry need to work together to boost connectivity among the business community, particularly for SMEs, with one study estimating that there is a commercial opportunity for UK plc here worth 18.8 billion if more SMEs were to market and operate online. 5 Further progress in these areas will help to make the UK an even more attractive place to set up shop. For continued improvements to our digital infrastructure in the future, we need coherent and co-ordinated policy The private sector can only go so far with the roll-out of digital infrastructure where it is uneconomic to invest, the government has had to step in to complete the job. As we move towards the end of this Parliament, we are in a position to assess current schemes to suggest how better coherence and co-ordination can help to deploy government assisted projects swiftly. Moreover, there is a question over how government and industry can co-ordinate effectively on demand-side measures, working together to stimulate business uptake. Different business users in different sectors will require different levels of connectivity, but we need to ensure that more businesses are in a position to exploit the opportunities made possible by the digital networks available. There is no silver bullet to boost business connectivity, but setting out the respective roles and responsibilities of government and industry to boost demand is an essential start. We need a strategy from Whitehall to cement our long-term position as a world-beating digital economy The pace of change in the digital economy is incredibly dynamic, with no time to stand still. Relative to other areas of critical national infrastructure, such as transport or energy, our digital networks consistently out-perform in terms of quality and cost in the eyes of business. The UK has more than a fighting chance of catching countries such as Finland and Sweden who have embedded investment in digital networks as a central plank of their respective infrastructure strategies. To do this, we need to build on our existing momentum through a step-change in the way that the UK government views digital infrastructure towards a recognition that investment in this area is helping to deliver the exports, the jobs, the regional prosperity and the shovel-ready projects that this country needs. This report sets out a four point plan with accompanying recommendations, developed with network providers and business users, to harness the commercial potential of digital infrastructure. There is no silver bullet to boost business connectivity, but setting out the respective roles and responsibilities of government and industry to boost demand is an essential start.
7 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 7 Summary of recommendations Government must articulate a vision and ambition for UK digital infrastructure that permeates Whitehall departments and boosts industry innovation Embed digital at the heart of infrastructure decision-making in Whitehall by creating two new seats on the Infrastructure UK Advisory Council: one for the DCMS Permanent Secretary and one for an industry representative on a rolling basis Revise the National Infrastructure Plan in its next upgrade to reflect the priority role that digital projects play in underpinning and supporting the delivery of other major projects Ensure that digital infrastructure is considered as part of the government s industrial strategy work, ensuring we have the quality networks needed to help deliver the BIS Information Economy strategy To translate this vision into reality, government must work with industry to develop a clear delivery strategy that provides investment certainty beyond this Parliament and which has cross-party support Commission Infrastructure UK to work with infrastructure delivery departments across Whitehall and industry representatives to formulate a new post-2015 strategy for the delivery and uptake of digital infrastructure in the next decade Bring forward the 300million already allocated to BDUK for into this Parliament to provide an immediate investment to roll out broadband connections to the final 10% Work with OFCOM and industry to develop a shared blueprint on future policy for spectrum, balancing competing commercial interests, which should be used as a basis for the UK s involvement in EU and global negotiations on spectrum bands The regulatory framework for digital should be updated to encourage investment and cross-industry collaboration Expand the remit of OFCOM to help promote growth through private sector investment and innovation in the market Commission OFCOM to help promote industry collaboration by providing best practice examples on the collaboration between content providers and infrastructure operators in delivering legal commercial services Government and industry must set out a coherent plan to boost business uptake of digital technology and the CBI will use its networks across sector and region to raise awareness of the commercial opportunities of doing more online Commit to finding new opportunities for government services to be delivered and administered online to help drive demand for broadband infrastructure Explore a formal partnership with industry geared towards boosting business uptake of digital services, and work with the CBI through Go ON UK to boost business awareness of digital commercial opportunities in all regions across the UK.
8 8 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 1 The roll-out of digital infrastructure is opening up new growth opportunities across the country Broader, faster digital networks yield countrywide economic benefits, injecting potential into every region of the UK. New connections support inward investment and job creation, while helping to nurture local businesses through access to new markets and new technology to improve commercial operations. On the ground, businesses are feeling a tangible difference to the services they are able to provide and the way they are able to interact with customers and clients. As the 2013 UK Attractiveness Survey indicates, retailers are continually employing digital platforms to reach consumers in new ways. 6 From flexible working to faster payments, smart-phones to smartgrids, investment in digital infrastructure is transforming our business environment, making us more connected than ever before. Furthermore, this investment can help deliver other types of crucial national infrastructure. Whether building a new road, school or housing development, high-quality digital connections can help contractors speed up the delivery of major projects. This digital infrastructure helps get sites up and running quickly and allows contractors to undertake modelling on the ground to amend designs and facilitate clear communication and information sharing with other sites across the world. As the government continues to deliberate the UK s future infrastructure needs and which projects should be prioritised, the UK s digital networks must sit as an equal partner in the infrastructure debate. Investment in broader and faster digital networks provides a demonstrable boost to UK GDP The macro case for investing in our digital infrastructure is well proven. A variety of studies in the last decade have successfully demonstrated the direct contribution of digital networks to economic growth. The McKinsey Global Institute cites a study from the University of Munich that assesses data from twenty OECD countries for the period from 1996 to 2007, showing that every 10-percentage-point increase in broadband penetration adds 0.9 to 1.5 percentage points to per capita GDP. 7 On a similar note, AT Kearney consultants have calculated that every 1 invested in connectivity whether in fixed or mobile broadband generates 5 worth of activity in the wider economy. 8 If we focus on the impact of fast broadband services, Regeneris Consulting have estimated that in any one location in the UK depending on the nature of the settlement 9 investment in superfast broadband could create between 143million (in the smallest) and 19.8billion (in the largest) in Gross Value Added (GVA), resulting in an annual aggregated percentage increase of between 0.3% and 0.5%. 10 For faster mobile access, there are equally impressive results. Capital Economics have calculated the possible benefits that 4G (Fourth Generation) mobile technology will bring, both in terms of investment and employment. Their report suggests that the roll-out of 4G technology could generate 5.5billion in private sector investment in the domestic economy and could create and/or safeguard 125,000 jobs over a ten year period. 11 Exhibit 1 demonstrates how these employment gains could break down across the different UK regions. It is hard to ascertain the extent to which some of these studies have taken an overly optimistic or conservative view due to the difficulty in calculating uptake projections and indirect benefits but what is clear is the growing body of evidence and unequivocal message to policymakers: investment in digital infrastructure supports economic growth.
9 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 9 Scotland 9,166 North East Jobs created or safeguarded by 4G Northern Ireland 2,785 North West 10,178 3,960 Yorkshire and the Humber 6,542 Wales 4,612 West Midlands 10,071 South West 9,166 East Midlands 7,946 London 18,831 East 13,914 South East 27,669 Exhibit 1: Capital Economics breakdown of jobs created and safeguarded in the regions by use of 4G LTE (long-term evolution) technology Source: Capital Economics, mobile broadband and the UK economy, 2012
10 10 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK maximising growth potential across UK regions Good connectivity can be a vital catalyst for regional regeneration, in both urban and rural areas. The transformative impact is well illustrated in the example of Superfast Cornwall. In this case, a 132million joint investment partnership in superfast broadband, part-funded by Cornwall Council and regional funds from the EU, together with private sector capital from BT, looks on track to create 4,000 jobs and safeguard a further 2,000. Moreover, in Cumbria, EE are working to deliver the benefits of 4G superfast connectivity to around 2,000 residents. 12 On the ground, broader and faster digital networks support the creation of new businesses, particularly in tech clusters or concentrated groups of start-ups in industries such as software and computer programming. The CBI has long called for the further strengthening of digital growth hubs in the UK such as London s Tech City (which stands as the seventh best digital start-up centre in the world 13 ), Silicon Fen near Cambridge, and Salford Media City to bolster the strength of the surrounding local economies. 14 Boosts to regional productivity can occur over a swift timescale once the infrastructure investment has been made. In Northern Ireland, a programme to roll out superfast broadband funded by the Northern Irish executive and UK government, together with European regional funding and significant commercial investment from BT Ireland received swift state aid approval from the EU in 2009 and was completed in A recent CBI report on regional regeneration, Locally Grown, has highlighted how Belfast s Titanic Quarter, in particular, has benefited from commercial investment in superfast broadband (through an investment separate to the BT assisted scheme), attracting a range of innovative businesses in next-generation media and film production. 15 With investment in digital infrastructure unlocking such potential in local economies, it is easy to see why network providers and infrastructure users have been frustrated with the frequent hold-ups to delivery in recent years due to the planning system. Openreach s deployment of superfast broadband across London boroughs is a case in point, where Kensington and Chelsea council rejected plans for 96 of the proposed 108 superfast broadband cabinets in the borough. The passing of the Growth and Infrastructure Act and its provision to ease up the requirements when installing cabinets should help to speed up broadband roll-out, but there is more to do to change the mind-set of local authorities and make the local economic case for this investment. Case studies such as Cornwall and Belfast demonstrate the art of the possible. On the ground, greater connectivity is already changing the way we do business... At a micro level, connectivity is changing not just our everyday lives but also the way we do business, opening up new commercial and strategic opportunities for all kinds of companies. UK-based companies are making better use of digital platforms, whether through online interaction with customers or in-house digital processes, to boost sales and productivity. As the 2013 UK Attractiveness Survey indicates, retailers are continually employing digital platforms to reach consumers in new ways. 16 Exhibit 2 shows how Asda has used multiple channels to deliver products and services to their customers. Exhibit 2 Asda s digital services Asda launched grocery home shopping 15 years ago, and now have around 1m regular customers who choose to order their groceries online, from a desktop, laptop, mobile phone or tablet device. Increasingly these customers are opting for the convenience of collecting their orders from their nearest store (already around 1 in 20 grocery orders are now collected by customers). For George.com, more than half of all online purchases are collected in a store. This extra visit by customers also results in incremental sales for Asda, as customers tend to shop for top-up items while in store. By having stores as collection points for parcels, Asda can also easily receive returned items making online shopping even more convenient. No need for their customers to collect parcels from the Post Office, or queue in line to return them if unwanted. In addition, more and more customers are choosing to interact with Asda every day via social media to share deals, make decisions about new product ranges, and to raise concerns. Finally, having mobilised their websites, Asda are now bringing the benefits of the internet into their stores. Asda have installed free wi-fi in all of their stores nationwide to enable customers to access the web as and when they need it. As a result of this connectivity, they have been able to introduce shopping list functionality on the Asda mobile app, which allows customers to plan and budget their weekly shop, taking some of the benefits of shopping online into their stores.
11 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 11 In other sectors beyond retail, Pearson reported in 2012 that 50% of their 6.1billion sales had been generated through digital and service businesses. 17 Moreover, many businesses in the financial services industry assert that better mobile connectivity could help improve productivity by stripping away much of the existing bureaucracy involved in exchanging information with customers. Steps to improve the UK s digital footprint can only help to extend these benefits, enabling more businesses to set up flexible working arrangements with their employees due to better broadband in the home, while also allowing firms to streamline their delivery of consumer-facing services. opening up new commercial opportunities by responding to patterns in consumer behaviour... Businesses can be both trailblazers and canny observers of technological trends. Catching such trends and making the right investments to stay ahead of the curve can open up new commercial opportunities for a wide range of industries. The global growth in smart-phone usage and the sheer volume of data generated by consumer activity are trends upon which companies can innovate and change their practices to exploit market opportunities in a responsible way. Exhibit 3 shows a projection from Cisco of the growth of global data traffic, together with an estimated rise in the number of mobile devices across the world. When combined with Exhibit 4, which shows that the majority of the UK population now own a smart-phone, we can see the scale of opportunity for British business to reach new customers and change the way they interact with their markets. Exhibit 3 The future of mobile data Global mobile data traffic will increase 26-fold up to 2015, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 92 per cent. There will be nearly one mobile device per person by There will be over 7.1 billion mobile-connected devices, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules, in 2015, approximately equal to the world s population in 2015 (7.2 billion). Source: Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast, Exhibit 4 The share of the UK population owning a smart-phone has increased dramatically since UK smartphone owners as a percentage of the total population Source: edigitalresearch and the Interactive Media in Retail Group 60
12 12 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK The volume of data available to businesses generated by consumers using mobile devices is set to increase exponentially, creating a significant opportunity. Given that much of this data will arise from exchanges between business and their customers, firms will look to aggregate this data in order to deliver more effective products and services. Research by Accenture has found an increasing number of firms taking this approach, leveraging this massive expansion in the volume of consumer data to make strategic changes to their business model and operations to meet customer needs. 18 Moreover, such data can help firms generate smart solutions to common problems, simply by providing an evidence base from which to track patterns. Exhibit 5 shows how better use of data can help private companies improve essential functions, such as public transport. The volume of data available to businesses generated by consumers using mobile devices is set to increase exponentially, creating a significant opportunity. Exhibit 5 Xerox making use of transportation analytics to reduce congestion Xerox start from an understanding that the modern trend of digitalisation can help to streamline practices that have long been essential to the way societies communicate transportation and movement. Technology developed in Xerox labs has used the availability of data sets such as fare purchases and season ticket information in relation to public transport, and simulated a model to track who is using what public transport at different times. This then provides public transportation network operators with an analysis of where bottlenecks in congestion are likely to occur and plan accordingly. Furthermore, this also helps operators plan what they need to do in order to alert commuters and, given the spread of smartphones and tablets, these can be used effectively to disseminate real-time information. This is an example of how collation and analysis of data can help infrastructure operators to better plan their services and help commuters to receive frequent and accurate travel updates. It represents a smart solution to every-day problems on the ground.
13 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 13 Exhibit 6 Sony Music and 4G working to deliver creative content over digital platforms Something we are a big believer in at Sony is creative innovation with a myriad of digital platforms. Certainly, telecoms companies look like they will be a huge partner with the advent of 4G. It s really about finding strong commercial solutions. That s the future. There s a very high use of smartphones for streaming music, while music apps are still the second-most downloaded applications. We strongly believe that a lot of the music services set up by the carriers have not been well managed or marketed. There is an awful lot that we as an industry can bring to the telecoms business in terms of what consumers want. They understand their customers but we understand music consumers and I think there s a real value to us working together to create compelling commercial offerings. Nick Gatfield, Chairman, Sony Music Entertainment UK & Ireland, MusicWeek, August 2012 strengthening high performance in creative sectors where the UK is already strong Investment in broader, faster digital infrastructure allows innovation to flourish in a range of sectors especially reliant on network capability. In many of these high-growth digital and creative content sectors such as video games, radio, social media and software the UK punches above its weight on a global stage and maintains a strong export performance. A recent government study estimated that these sectors accounted for 21.2billion of GVA or 1.7% of UK economic output in Content providers are constantly responding to the proliferation of digital technology, adapting traditional business models. As Exhibit 6 shows, working effectively with digital network operators can help established companies like Sony Music to channel traditional content in new and innovative ways. Organisations such as Sony Music have realised that the growth of smartphone usage presents a new opportunity to deliver on-demand and legally licensed products to consumers and are therefore exploring the opportunities for collaboration with network operators to deliver compelling music services over 4G. The power of music services integrated into a mobile offering has been demonstrated in other territories such as the partnership between Spotify and Telia in Sweden, with benefits accruing to Telia in the region of 60million.
14 14 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK and helping to build the physical infrastructure this country needs to remain competitive The commercial benefits of technology enabled by digital infrastructure are not restricted to the creative industries or the service sector they can be felt just as strongly in other sectors, such as the construction industry. Here, contractors have long awaited the roll-out of 4G connectivity. Its speed and coverage is already helping firms like Kier get a site up and running swiftly, with the ability to model in real-time on the ground as a particular project evolves. 20 Moreover, digital networks are of critical importance to the wider use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology by contractors like Skanska in delivering some of the UK s biggest transport projects, such as the 6.2billion scheme to widen the M25 motorway. What this shows is that investment in faster digital networks and broader coverage can, in turn, help to deliver other types of critical national infrastructure. The cross-cutting nature of digital networks and their ability to support the government s broad policy goals specifically the renewal of more traditional national infrastructure and the need to boost our export performance demonstrates why this particular type of infrastructure should not be kept in a silo, set apart from considerations about our future transport and energy needs. Digital networks are vital in getting big projects moving and the example of the roll-out of SMART meters further demonstrates this importance. To co-ordinate information on energy usage between a range of stakeholders, including energy companies and network providers, the government is set to appoint a designated Data and Communications Company (DCC) later this year. But for the DCC to play this co-ordinating role, the availability of high-speed connectivity is essential. As the government continues to deliberate the UK s future infrastructure needs and which projects should be prioritised, digital infrastructure must sit as an equal partner in the infrastructure debate. The examples above illustrate the pivotal role of digital technology in the delivery of physical infrastructure and especially in the case of smart meters to better monitor energy usage in driving savings for businesses and consumers alike. Facilitating constant improvements to the UK s underlying digital networks is therefore vital if we are to speed up shovel-ready projects and deliver efficiencies in critical areas, such as energy provision. In looking to shape the National Infrastructure Plan into a future pipeline, businesses need government to think about the interaction between different priority projects, and how digital infrastructure is not self-contained but acts as pivotal crossinfrastructure enabler. When Transport for London and project planners consider how to build the Crossrail of the future, for example, it must be an essential requirement to have teams in place which can assess large swathes of data to work out where particular risks to the project might be, and establish the best forms of digital technology to employ in order to speed up delivery. Digital capabilities have to be built into the UK s broader infrastructure landscape our international competitors are already well on their way.
15 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 15 As the government continues to deliberate the UK s future infrastructure needs and which projects should be prioritised, digital infrastructure must sit as an equal partner in the infrastructure debate.
16 16 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK Private investment in infrastructure supports a vibrant 2 digital economy in the UK and we must encourage businesses to do more with online services In the last decade, private investment has driven the roll-out of our digital infrastructure and we will continue to look to the private sector to build on this progress over the next decade. The on-going expansion of the UK s digital footprint can only serve to further support our worldbeating digital economy. Our consumers are prolific online shoppers, making the UK the largest e-commerce market in the world and offering huge potential for companies savvy enough to flex their business model to meet this demand. Moreover, UK business should be wellpositioned to harness the commercial potential that stems from better connectivity. With prospects for future economic growth pinned to an investment and export-led recovery, it is vital that we encourage businesses to spread their wings online, accessing new markets through cross-border e-commerce and building new supply chains. Due to the on-going progress with network roll-out, the UK compares broadly well with our international counterparts on a number of indicators. First, the UK has the second highest percentage of households penetrated by fixed broadband among major economies. Second, the UK scores highly according to World Bank figures on the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people. Third, with on-going efforts from the private sector to roll-out superfast broadband to well over two-thirds of the population, the percentage of broadband subscriptions which count as superfast in the UK is now above both the EU average and Germany, France and Italy. But to further cement the UK as a world-beater in the global digital economy, we need to continue our efforts to bridge the gap between the coverage of urban and rural locations. Moreover, government and industry need to work together to boost connectivity among the business community, particularly for SMEs, with one study estimating that there is a commercial opportunity for UK plc here worth 18.8billion. 21 Further progress in these areas will help to make the UK an even more attractive place to set up shop. Private investment in networks has delivered demonstrable change in the UK s digital footprint Private sector investment has been at the forefront of the existing network roll-out of both fixed and mobile connections. The importance of the private sector s role was underlined by the government only months into the 2010 parliament: private investment has been the driving force behind advances in communications technology. 22 There are many commercial players driving forward different projects around the country. BT will have invested 2.5billion to bring superfast broadband to more than two-thirds of UK homes by the spring of 2014 and have passed over 15 million homes to date. Similarly, Virgin Media pledged to invest over 13.5billion over the next 20 years to extend their cable networks. On mobile networks, according to figures from the Mobile Operators Association (MOA), the capital costs invested in existing networks by all operators stands (at current prices) between 4.2billion and 5.7billion. In 2011, EE committed to invest 1.5billion over three years, while Vodafone have pledged 900 million in alone to merge their fixed and mobile offerings. These figures only reveal the investment levels in the current network; the roll-out of new 4G services will add half again to these levels. The MOA estimates that operators will spend a further 2.1billion to 3billion over the next four years. This private sector investment has delivered the tangible progress in our networks to date. Data compiled by OFCOM shows that the average broadband speed in the UK has increased by 69% from 2011 to Furthermore, OFCOM confirm that the number of UK premises which can receive a 3G mobile signal from all mobile operators increased from 72% in 2011 to 77% in
17 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 17 Exhibit 7 Size of each country s internet economy as a percentage of national GDP United Kingdom South Korea China Japan United States India Australia Canada Germany France Brazil Italy Internet economy (as a % of GDP) Source: Boston Consulting Group This infrastructure supports a thriving digital economy in the UK, with the largest e-commerce market in the world From a consumer perspective, the UK s digital economy is in strong health. OFCOM data confirms that we are a data-savvy nation, with four in ten of us now using smartphones. 25 UK consumers spend each year an average of 1083 per head online, which makes the UK the largest e-commerce market in the world. 26 Research from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) complements this assertion, calculating that the size of the internet economy in the United Kingdom across a range of industries was 8.3 per cent of GDP in 2010, ahead of the OECD average. 27 Exhibit 7 demonstrates the UK s lead against some of our biggest international competitors. This positive picture is reflected in the UK s international rankings on digital infrastructure, where we score broadly well on a number of indicators Given the prolific online activity of UK consumers, it is not surprising that we compare rather well with our international counterparts when we look at the overall uptake businesses and households combined of both fixed and mobile broadband subscriptions. Exhibit 8 shows that the UK has the second highest percentage of households penetrated by fixed broadband among major economies a result that is complemented by the World Bank mobile subscription results in Exhibit 9, in which the UK scores highly. Exhibit 8 Broadband penetration of households per 100 people during 2011 France UK USA Germany Spain Italy Source: OFCOM
18 18 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 150 Exhibit 9 Number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people by country and to retain our competitiveness, we need to continually focus on extending coverage to rural areas... Exhibit 10 Superfast Broadband/Next Generation Access uptake as a % of total broadband subscriptions With the on-going spread of fast broadband networks, it is no surprise that the uptake of digital services by businesses and consumers has risen over the past few years. As Exhibit 10 confirms, as of January 2013, the percentage of broadband subscriptions which count as superfast in the UK is now above the EU average and Germany, France and Italy. 2 Italy 3 France Austria Germany This improving picture is particularly important as we look to extend the coverage of broadband networks to rural areas throughout the United Kingdom. Locally led campaigns such as Digital Business First indicate that there is real demand for faster connectivity from Local Enterprise Partnerships and industry in these areas. Denmark EU Spain United States China Japan 2009 Germany United Kingdom Source: World Bank The latest statistics from OFCOM in 2012 point to some disparities between different regions and between different types of settlement. For instance, while the overall availability of superfast broadband services stands at 65% in the UK, there is a marked difference between the figure for superfast availability in Northern Ireland (95%) and the comparative figure for Wales (37%), although here BT and BDUK look set to deliver superfast broadband to over 95% of premises by Similarly, in 2012, while 84% of urban premises had access to superfast broadband, only 19% of rural areas could say the same. 28 The picture was similar for mobile coverage: while 80.5% of premises in England are covered by 3G signal coverage from all network operators, in Wales and Northern Ireland the figures stand at 55.9% and 52.4% respectively UK 27 Ireland 33 Finland 35 Sweden 52 Netherlands Source: European Commission, Digital Agenda Scorecard, 2013
19 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 19 We know that picture this will improve as the UK s digital footprint continues to expand; nonetheless, a primary policy objective has to be to ensure that all regions of the United Kingdom, whether north or south, rural or urban, England or devolved nation, can have access to the fast connectivity which, in turn, will deliver a range of benefits to the economy across the board. while ensuring that we do our utmost to boost online business activity, particularly in the context of SMEs The size of the UK digital consumer market might be substantial, but there is always more that can be done to help boost the uptake of digital services by businesses and to encourage them to do more online. This is because digital connectivity offers huge potential for export activity, new supply chain links and smarter, often cheaper, commercial operations. In practice, the substantial majority of businesses in the UK have either ethernet or broadband connections, according to BT Business research. 30 Some evidence suggests that there is more to be done to ensure that smaller firms are able to fully exploit the benefits of the internet. A report by Booz & Co suggests that if more SMEs were to market and operate online, UK plc could benefit to the tune of 18.8billion. 31 As an international comparison, the Booz & Co study also showed that while only 14% of SMEs currently sell online in the UK, in Norway that figure is doubled, with 30% of SMEs selling online. 32 For the UK to maximise the potential of our investment in digital infrastructure, we have to get these companies making the most of our networks. The benefits for SMEs will come not just from tapping into the UK s domestic e-commerce market but also by gaining greater exposure to the global marketplace. As recent CBI work has emphasised, to consolidate the path towards growth, the UK has to tilt the balance of its economy towards investment and exports, pushing trade towards foreign markets with a higher growth potential. 33 Digital infrastructure provides companies with a portal through which to access a global consumer base, but many UK firms are currently missing out on this opportunity. To lock UK consumers and businesses in a virtuous circle of improvement and innovation, we need to boost uptake to keep up with the pace of infrastructure roll-out. Our international competitors are taking big steps to get the most out of their network investment and the UK should set out a long term plan to stay ahead. Many of the UK s international competitors are taking concrete steps to develop world-class digital infrastructure, recognising the need to approach the challenge with a long-term strategy and a clear objective. In France, President Hollande has recently committed to an investment of 20billion over the course of the next decade in order to deliver high-speed broadband to every household in the country by 2023 in practice, this means 200million of investment per year with a mixed public/private sector investment model. 34 In an earlier comparative study of different broadband plans across a range of nations, researchers from Harvard University found that in the deployment of the fibre-optic cables needed to roll-out superfast fixed broadband, the most successful countries such as Sweden, South Korea and Japan made large, long-term investments, structured by decade-long plans that delivered high quality networks. 35 Against these examples, UK businesses need to know whether policymakers are currently equipped to do what needs to be done to ensure that the UK cements its current position. It is no longer sufficient to approach the challenge in a piecemeal fashion, to assume that digital infrastructure will sort itself out while ministers concentrate on fixing the road network or setting a new energy framework. To compete on a global stage, businesses need infrastructure that will create a true digital ecosystem where speed and coverage are maximised, uptake is incentivised and networks are fully integrated with other physical infrastructure to deliver the biggest and widest return on investment. With providers currently unsure about the exact policy and funding landscape beyond the end of this Parliament, clarity and longtermism are crucial.
20 20 Let s get digital harnessing the commercial potential of digital infrastructure in the UK 3 For continued improvements to our digital infrastructure in the future, we need coherent and co-ordinated policy The private sector can only go so far with the roll-out of digital infrastructure where it is uneconomic to invest, the government has had to step in to complete the job. As we move towards the end of this Parliament, we are in a position to assess current schemes to suggest how better coherence and co-ordination can help to deploy government assisted projects swiftly. Moreover, there is a question over how government and industry can co-ordinate effectively on demand-side measures, working together to stimulate business uptake. Different business users in different sectors will require different levels of connectivity, but we need to ensure that more businesses are in a position to exploit the opportunities made possible by the digital networks available. There is no silver bullet to boost business connectivity, but setting out the respective roles and responsibilities of government and industry to boost demand is an essential start. Given the delayed Return-On-Investment for private infrastructure providers, in some areas the government has needed to step in where it is uneconomic to invest While more and more private investment is being ploughed into rolling out the networks we need to support business growth and consumer demand, Exhibit 11 shows that total industry revenue from telecoms operators has fallen slightly in the last few years. Couple this trend with both the rising number of fixed broadband connections and the demand for data outlined above and the picture becomes complicated. There needs to be a much greater acknowledgement of the levels of investment involved in maintaining and renewing our digital infrastructure: AT Kearney research shows that infrastructure investment accounts for 72% of the internet value chain. 36 The critical point to highlight is that much of the immediate economic value provided by the roll-out of digital infrastructure does not flow direct to network builders/operators. Indeed, it will take a longer period for operators to gain an adequate return-on-investment compared to the more significant short-term economic boost their investment brings for UK plc as a whole. There seems to be an expectation from government that the industry will deliver no matter what. This expectation manifests itself in the regulatory framework, with the regulator instructed by statute to minimise prices for the consumer above any consideration of the need to invest in and deliver network upgrades to meet consumer demand. With investment in new and existing digital networks so critically important, we need to assess whether the existing policy and regulatory frameworks are designed to support growth and whether they strike the right balance in order to facilitate the sustainable levels of private-led capital funding we need Exhibit 11 Total telecoms industry revenue ( bn) Source: Policy Exchange and OFCOM data
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