Henry Lancaster – Senior Analyst, Europe – BuddeComm
There are few governments which consider future IP networks in a larger framework. The UK is a case in point. When building a nation’s NGN, policy makers should take the opportunity to think big, which means thinking far beyond broadband as is currently perceived. At present, the Digital Britain report has taken a silo approach in that it addresses elements such as telecoms, content, radio and TV in isolation of each other.
The trans-sector approach, by which broadband taps into and co-ordinates with other sectors, is currently being championed by Australia, and under its example and guidance is being explored by New Zealand, The Netherlands and the USA. Other sectors include the use of IP infrastructure for a range of services, of which telecoms is only one. Bandwidth tenants will include government departments developing e-health and tele-education services (as well as the private sector doing the same), utilities managing their smart grids, security and entertainment firms, and a plethora of new and entrepreneurial services yet to be thought of. Applications such as e-health, tele-education and smart grids will together account for at least 50% of the digital infrastructure capacity, while broadband as we now know it will represent 10-15%. In effect, broadband will in future years become such a small component of overall IP-enabled services that it can provided for free, much as email and computer-to-computer VoIP are currently free.
So despite the posturing, the government faces a bleak fact: that without a broader vision and a coordinated approach to IP infrastructure it will be impossible to maximise the economic and social benefits from its Digital Britain initiative. This will be shameful for the government, and a pity for all citizens.