Broadband and mobile improvements needed to benefit Norfolk business
Technology and how we use it is evolving rapidly but Norfolk’s digital and mobile infrastructure needs to keep pace. Norfolk Chamber is keen to ensure that both our digital and mobile infrastructure are fit for purpose and that our business community is ready to take advantage of new technology developments as they evolve.
Greater mobile coverage is needed to provide better reliability. This includes erecting more mobile signal masts and creating a simplified planning process to gain the necessary permissions. Another simple solution to improve existing coverage would be to allow mobile roaming across the existing network providers.
Nova Fairbank, Public Affairs Manager for Norfolk Chamber said: “Norfolk Chamber wants to ensure that our business community is able to take advantage of new technology developments as they evolve and one of those key areas is the rise in the mobile office and the need by more business people to do business on the move. To do this we need more investment in our mobile signal infrastructure and changes in how the service providers operate i.e. roaming signals.”
A network of providers ensures that the majority of Norfolk receives mobile signal coverage but no one provider can deliver a high percentage of overall signal coverage across the county.
At present the providers do not allow seamless roaming between their networks – so every business user, no matter which network provides their service, suffers from unreliable mobile signal coverage in Norfolk.
A recent British Chambers of Commerce survey showed that 83% of Norfolk business users experienced ‘not spots’, 43% had access to 4G, and more concerning, 11% of business users still only had access to 2G - voice calls only with no internet or data.
Neil Orford, President of Great Yarmouth Chamber Council and Partner at Lovewell Blake,said: “If we wish to be seen as a place to do business, we must continue to press for improvement in the service provided.”
Whilst approximately 86% of Norfolk has access to 24mbps, a recent British Chambers of Commerce survey, reported that the Norfolk business community still thought that Norfolk’s digital infrastructure was not yet totally fit for purpose.
Lynsey Sweales, a Norfolk Chamber Board Member and Director of Social B, said: “A reliable broadband connection is absolutely vital for all companies, yet 20% of Norfolk companies suffer from unreliable connections. The focus of the Government must be on providing businesses with sufficient and reliable broadband connections to enable to them to do business confidently.”
The British Chambers survey showed that with more reliable connections Norfolk businesses could do more. More than half of businesses (54%) said that if the reliability of their broadband connection was improved it would allow them to use more applications, particularly cloud-based services (24%), transfer of large files (16%), and remote server access for employees (14%).
Paul Grenyer, CEO atNorwich-based Naked Element,said: “My issue is with mobile signals when I am out and about in the county, which I do quite a bit because I like to go to see clients. Reception is very sporadic. I use the train because I like to work but the other day I went from Yarmouth to Norwich and I only had reception for 60 per cent of the time, which means that it is dead time. It is frustrating and it needs to improve.”
David Manning, Managing Director of MIGSOLV, which delivers The Gatehouse data-centre in Norwich, said: “Data and IT are ingrained in almost every business now, whether it’s what they deliver or simply helps them do what they do. We’ve found many of our local business customers want increased connectivity simply to save time or help them access services that make them more productive.
“Space in our data-centre is increasingly taken by local businesses. Their customers have faster connections so they want to see the businesses they buy from do more online. It’s a real opportunity for companies to stand out, regardless of size or sector.
"So many Norfolk businesses trade across Europe and the world. Their customers don’t discriminate and expect faster connections as the norm. Whilst most businesses can now achieve high internet speeds, fast mobile connections are often less important than consistent coverage."
James Gulliver, Managing Director of Netmatters Ltd, said: “The way we produce and consume information has changed, the way we do business and carry out transactions has changed and so has the way we interact with individuals and businesses alike. All these factors have resulted in more data than ever before having to negotiate its way through an already-overcrowded infrastructure and this data consumption is set to grow by a factor of 50 by 2025. This is where superfast broadband comes in with all the commercial benefits it provides.
“It is this realisation which has put the Government and broadband providers alike centre-stage of economic debates, resulting in more investment from both parties to support a much-needed upgrade to the existing infrastructure, as businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on cloud-based technology and require more bandwidth to operate their business.”
Steve Batson, Operations Director, WiSpire, said: “Some of the comments and feedback we receive at WiSpire and the latest BCC survey, confirms that there is still some way to go to deliver the connectivity businesses need to develop and grow their business. The problem is particularly acute for isolated rural businesses and finding a viable solution will require investment from both the public and private sector. The introduction of the digital infrastructure fund and funding for full fibre networks is a good start and we would like to see the new government introduce a voucher scheme of appropriate value to help businesses resolve their connectivity problems.”
David Robertson, owner of IT business Jader Ltd, said: “I use BT Infinity in the village that I live in (Kirby Cane). This has greatly improved my ability to work in the cloud. However, I have recently experienced ten times faster speeds in another part of the country. I think that we should not be complacent when achieving higher speeds, as to remain competitive in the technology industry we need to maintain an edge.The importance of embracing the ideas and abilities of the product of our education system is more important than virtually any other aspect of our evolution as a county within a country. The race to achieve and excel should not be restricted to the population of cities where Broadband infrastructure is strong.”