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UK overstates benefits of 4G, says report

The British government has allocated nearly £1bn to accelerate the development of superfast network. It is expected to boost national broadband speeds to more than 24 megabits per second – nearly three times today’s average – by 2015. This initiative is an essential part of the UK government’s policy, which believes that rapid internet access will boost productivity, create new industries and link distant areas.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, however, argues that existing networks are capable of delivering many of the anticipated new services over the next few years. It also warned that there were obstacles to even using the existing technology capabilities, including a shortage of digital skills and ingrained resistance to change, although it predicts that there will be some short-term stimulus to jobs and economic activity.

The rollout of superfast broadband, both the mobile and fixed variants, will help, but it would be unwise to expect early returns. A dose of reality is in order, however, about the scale of the impact in the shorter term. For many anticipated benefits, it is less about building bigger pipes and more about the need for established systems, processes and skills to evolve.

Interestingly, the report – Superfast Britain? Myths and realities about the UK’s broadband future – was sponsored by Huawei, the Chinese telecoms equipment maker. Download the full report.

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