Mike Odysseas, Managing Director of Odyssey Systems, looks at why telecommunications networks should be given the same support as other infrastructure.
For years now, and probably for many more to come, the media has given over countless column inches and broadcast minutes to the subject of HS2, an increasingly expensive rail network upgrade. Its great claim is that it will boost the economy by helping people to travel between London and Birmingham 20 minutes faster than is currently the case.
Whether such a time-saving is worth the tens of billions of pounds the project will cost is debateable, but one thing I can tell you with certainty is that no train will get you from A to B faster than telecommunications can connect two people on opposite sides of the globe.
With teleconferencing, video conferencing and countless more technological applications available at the touch of a button, I can connect instantly with a client or staff member and talk with them face to face, whether they are in Birmingham, Bermuda or Beijing, without having to go anywhere. I don’t even have to do it from an office – if the connectivity is right, I can take a break from a bike ride and make a call right where I am.
Whole businesses expand around the globe and intercontinental flights are hardly necessary to maintain the regular communications that keep the organisation operating and growing.
This year, we have seen an important tipping point in communications, as people are now accessing the internet more from their mobile devices than from desktops. Even within our homes and offices, we are no longer reliant upon a “hard” connection.
It needs to be accepted that the world we live in is one which is mobile technology-driven, and that the infrastructure required for effective telecommunication is as important to the economy as that which drives transport.
I am firmly behind the comments of o2 Telefonica UK CEO Ronan Dunne, who, in a recent national interview conducted at the One Young World conference in Thailand, highlighted the complete lack of legislative support for boosting mobile internet access.
He highlighted a shift in demands on politicians, from constituents urging action to stop more masts being erected, to the same people now demanding greater mobile coverage.
However, there is still no subsidy or even right of access powers that can help to make this happen more quickly.
The needs of businesses, as well as individuals, have been changing for some time, but the actions of Government, in failing to actively support greater coverage, is behind the consensus. Take Japan as an example of progress in this area; mobile wi-fi offering tens of megabits is accessible halfway up Mount Fuji, yet you can land back in Heathrow and be faced with a GPRS-only signal. Europe has shown itself to at least be addressing the shift, with the scrapping of data roaming charges, albeit not until the Summer of 2017, but the UK needs to act now to play its part.