LONDON: British telcos must be urged to build faster broadband networks to keep the UK globally competitive, says a new report by industry/government forum, the Broadband Stakeholder Group.
The BSG believes the UK has performed admirably since the beginning of the decade in providing consumers with high speed web access. There are now more than 13 million broadband connections; download speeds continue to rise while prices have fallen.
However, the group warns against complacency and forecasts that users will demand speeds up to 10 times faster by 2012 - demands which will have to be met by heavy investment on the part of telcos. It cites examples in Hong Kong and Seoul where 100 megabit connections are common.
Says chairman Kip Meek: "The move to broadband in Britain has been very successful, and credit must be given to companies. But the next step is extending fibre optic or wireless connections, and that involves significant investment."
Such networks, reaching 90% of homes and businesses, could cost up to £9.6 billion ($19.1bn; €14.1bn).
Meeks adds: "If steps are not taken [by 2009] to prepare for next-generation broadband, then we may well find ourselves in a position where it is too late to catch up."
The country's leading broadband provider BT will start offering 24 megabit speeds from next year - three times its fastest current speed; while Virgin Media plans to offer up to 20 mbps from June and is testing a 50 mbps service.
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff