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Google bod: Fast net 'absolutely CRITICAL' to UK future

Pukka mobile needed to save hard-up Brits

By Gavin Clarke, 13 Mar 2012

Digital London Google is championing the need for improved fixed and mobile internet access while flying the flag for British small businesses online.

High-speed broadband and mobile coverage go hand-in-hand, helping businesses get online and helping consumers to buy their services, Google's man said, adding that this in turn boosts the UK's GDP.

Google’s vice president for northern and central Europe, Matt Brittin, said on Tuesday that while the UK government seems to appreciate the importance of high-speed broadband and mobile, funding the necessary improvements remains a problem.

Brittin said in response to questioning from The Reg at the Digital London event: “High-speed broadband and high-speed mobile are absolutely critical... You clearly have to have strong infrastructure and it’s not enough to have strong broadband - you have to have strong mobile, too.

“We see the pace of mobile growth as absolutely transformational, not just for business but to help people out of poverty. I think government understand how important is when you talk to them; the challenge is getting it funded and getting it out fast.”

Broadband and mobile internet access remain patchy concerns in the UK.

Carriers cluster in and around major cities like London at the expense of places only just outside – meaning access, speeds and choice quickly disappear. When it comes to raw access, even mobile networks in cities can just disappear at peak times of the day.

Speaking at Digital London, Brittin said Google data showed locations in the UK that have a high density of growth in internet activity are urban. These include Scunthorpe and – within the London area – Croydon, Sidcup and Uxbridge. He reckoned that internet business makes up 7 per cent of the UK's GDP and that 60 per cent of that revenue comes from shoppers buying online.

David Cameron’s government wants 90 per cent of homes and businesses in the UK to have access to a "superfast" broadband network come 2015. However, progress is sticky, even with the £530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund to help get there.

In December, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had to set a February 2012 deadline for local councils to submit plans for broadband rollout in their areas after it emerged they were fumbling the ball and that most hadn't even attempted to snaffle for a slice of Whitehall pork. By February just two authorities – North Tyneside and South Tyneside – had missed the deadline.

In October, the chancellor announced that £150m would become available this year to “improve the coverage and quality of mobile service” for 5 to 10 per cent of consumers and businesses “where existing mobile coverage is poor or non-existent".

The goal is to extend mobile service to 99 per cent of the population.

Speaking at Digital London, Brittin called the UK a “world leader” in e-commerce because it spends more per-head online than any other country.

He cited good credit card security and the pioneering work of retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s as having given UK consumers the confidence to shop online. ®