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Access, skills and investment vital for telecoms future - analysts

Monday, December 29th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

The communications industry should focus on access and digital skills in 2015, two independent telecoms analysts have said.

Anna Coast and Bob Franklin, from UK-based consultancy Telcoconsulting, said the areas are overwhelming issues that should be high on the 2015 telecoms industry agenda.

Ms Coast and Mr Franklin, who have both worked with the telecoms industry, said access is a key word for the sector next year, whether to customers, information, or investment for fixed and mobile services.

They also told Cable.co.uk that developing digital skills and raising standards were vital to increase confidence in the industry.

Ms Coast, who previously held various senior finance appointments in BT, said: “There are underlying themes that run through the utilities industries, these are: access issues, these are price issues, infrastructure, price to the consumer, quality of service, whether it's water or telecoms.

“These are four or five fundamental themes that regulators and politics struggle with."

Telecoms financial expert Mr Franklin, who also had an earlier finance career at BT, said it was hard to predict the “next big thing” for the industry would be, but it would most likely be connected to applications.

“They will be the big changes, it won’t be so much the networks,” he said.

“The trouble with networks is nobody really wants to invest in them.

'Significant investment'

“They all want to invest in devices and content, they want to invest in the content but they don’t want to buy the pipe.”

Ms Coast compared broadband and mobile infrastructure to the railway networks that changed the economic and social landscape of the UK, saying network infrastructure would do the same.

Mr Franklin named investment as one of five areas that the industry should focus on in 2015: “Significant investment is required, particularly in the networks, the basic network infrastructure in this country. It’s an aging network in many cases.”

He said confidence, including business confidence, would be vital to this, and added: “Investment comes when people have confidence. You won’t spend your money if you don’t have confidence. That business confidence is crucial.

“It’s got to be business-led. At the end of the day businesses do things, they want to make money, they create jobs.”

He said local access would be more important, whether fixed or mobile, and also said the industry needs less prescriptive government, but tougher regulation when necessary.

“It’s almost a contradiction. It’s less government but tough regulation where you need it – financial transparency because these companies do behave like naughty boys. Get a tough regulator to sort it all out.

“If you do something naughty you should know that you’re going to get bashed.

“You need a bit of longer term thinking by government – they are the policy-making body – then you need a tough regulator.”

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