By Jon Whiteaker
A UK government scheme to introduce high-speed broadband to all parts of the UK by 2015 should help online retailers, according to industry experts.
Secretary of State for Culture Jeremy Hunt confirmed to the BBC this morning that £830 million of public money has been earmarked to deliver Europe’s best broadband network in the next five years.
People living in rural areas away from large centres are likely to benefit most, with many remote locations currently receiving no internet connection or very slow speeds.
Charlie Davies, Technology Analyst for research company Ovum, told Retail Gazette: “It’s difficult to quantify as even those consumers without fixed broadband may be accessing the web via mobile broadband.
“However, we would estimate at least 20 per cent of the population either can’t or more importantly choose not to access the internet.”
According to government body Ofcom, 71 per cent of the British population had access to broadband as of June 2010, and retailers will be hoping that extending fast speed services across the country will encourage more people to shop online.
Tina Spooner, Director of Information at e-tail membership group IMRG, commented: “Broadband speeds for rural areas and villages could well have a positive effect on the e-retail industry, giving more people access to shopping from home at speeds that greatly increase convenience and usability.
“Slow connections can have a negative impact on the trust that consumers have at the checkout, when low speeds can make the session appear to ‘hang’ at times.”
Online transactions tend to need less bandwidth then other online services and so increased speeds will not aid retailers in this way, but faster broadband does offer other significant advantages for the industry.
Davies expalined: “Faster broadband will improve video performance which is increasingly being used for marketing/product descriptions.
“Another important retail segment that should see a significant change, is digital content and services like movies, music and gaming: higher-speed download and upload speeds will cut down transaction times a lot and improve the performance of services like multiplayer gaming.”