Poor broadband reliability could stall manufacturing growth

EEF has warned that the UK’s ongoing focus on broadband speed is potentially distracting policy makers from delivering what industry really needs.

Responding to the Government Review of Business Broadband, EEF said that manufacturers’ primary focus is on a digital infrastructure that is cost effective, reliable, resilient, and future proof.

EEF’s full response to the Review can be seen here.

The latter is particularly important with the sector on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution that will see greater integration of physical production with internet enabled technologies.

Eight in ten manufacturers (80%) say that the fourth industrial revolution will be a business reality by 2025, and more than six in ten (62%) plan to invest more in internet connected capital equipment over the next five years.

More than nine in ten (91%) say that a high-speed connection is as important to their business as electricity and water, while manufacturers rate broadband infrastructure as the second highest priority for investment, behind motorways.

New analysis by EEF shows that in the key areas of speed; network availability; quality, and reliability, leased lines are seen as the best choice in meeting manufacturers’ requirements.

This highlights the fact that the need is not just about speed, but wider factors to do with reliability and resilience. Such is the importance that over a third of manufacturers (34%) have invested in a dedicated leased line connection, which consequently pushes them down in the queue for superfast broadband upgrades.

EEF warned that the UK is in last chance saloon. BT’s Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) rollout has reached just 1% of households and businesses, while the UK remains off the league table for FTTP subscribers according to the FTTP Council Europe.

Chris Richards, senior business environment policy adviser, EEF.
Chris Richards, senior business environment policy adviser, EEF.

Senior business environment policy adviser at EEF, Chris Richards commented: “Britain has clearly benefitted from the move to faster broadband, which has transformed our economy.

“But there’s still much more to be done. The legacy of focussing on speed has served its purpose and it’s now time to do a stocktake on what we need going forward. For manufacturers this is clear – we need a more reliable, resilient and future proofed network to match the fundamental importance digital infrastructure plays in our modern economy.

“The UK needs a strategy to improve the reliability of our digital infrastructure through a much more pervasive fibre broadband rollout. We also need confidence that the Government will stand behind that strategy to make sure it’s delivered.

“The reality is that if we don’t do this now, in five years’ time we won’t be arguing about where we are in the international league tables – we won’t even be in them.”