Getting to the Internet of Everyone – still a work in progressMatthew Evans
Every year the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, a body set up by the ITU and UNESCO in 2010, sets out its annual report on the state of the global broadband industry. The headline from this year’s was that outside of some pockets such as mobile broadband, overall growth in internet take-up and usage is slowing; a concern when by the end of this year just 43.4% of the global population will be online.
The Commission looks at reasons for this slowing growth. There are problems evident on both the supply and demand sides.
The latter is a partly an issue in the UK both in terms of some groups neither seeing the need to go online and/or not have the required skills. Interestingly the Commission make the point that although services are multinational they are not necessarily multilingual with only 5% of the world’s spoken languages making it online at the moment. The UK places just outside the top 10 for percentage of individuals using the Internet (at 91%) but that does not necessarily mean that we have yet reached saturation yet – Iceland, Norway and Denmark all achieve above 96%.
On the supply side the Commission highlights that the UK experience, where the low hanging fruit of urban centres have already been covered, is replicated on the global scale. This is demonstrated in the graph below, which demonstrates the commercial viability of fibre-to-the-home/cabinet (FTTH/C) and LTE. Obviously this is illustrative, with the UK deploying FTTH in very rural areas, FTTC being rolled out to over 65%, and LTE being deployed to 95% of population on a commercial basis.
The report makes a series of recommendations and also makes an assessment of which regulations has shaped the ICT sector the most since 2006;
Other conclusions include the need to reduce tax on telecommunications equipment – interesting given the forthcoming review of business rates which can lead to some perverse outcomes – the beneficial impact on investment that long-term broadband plans can have and the importance of a Universal Service Obligation.