The UK’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) infrastructure sector has considerably evolved in the past decade as firms and consumers have required increased digital connectivity. The speed of technical change in both the supply of ICT infrastructure, and the means by which firms and individuals demand digital connectivity services, has been dramatic. Current statistics indicate that coverage of superfast broadband (>30Mbps) in 2014 now reaches 20.4 million premises (75.2%) (Point-Topic, 2014). To date, little research has examined exactly where investment has or has not been taking place, and this has become particularly important as questions have begun to be raised over the viability of delivering superfast broadband to the remaining population. As the need to address poorly connected places rises to the top of the political agenda, decision makers need support in helping to identify the heterogeneous supply in different cities and regions (Analysys Mason, 2013). This paper firstly employs a unique dataset from the UK’s telecommunications regulator Ofcom (2012) of 1.7 million postcodes to comprehensively examine the UK’s fixed broadband infrastructure, and secondly utilises Ofcom (2013) data on mobile communications networks at the local authority level.
ICT infrastructure is comprised of a variety of communication and computation systems. It plays a key role in enabling the wider ICT ecosystem which is itself comprised of myriad networked elements, platforms, applications, digital services, content and consumers (Fransman, 2010). According to recent figures, the UK has one of the largest weekly Internet usage (87%) and broadband take-ups rates (83%) in the EU (Ofcom, 2014). Consequently, the UK is considered to have one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world with around 270,000 companies (roughly 14% of the economy) (Nathan et al. 2013). The UK leads the G20 nations in this regard with its digital economy contributing 8.3% of its GDP in 2010 and this is expected to rise to 12.4% by 2016 (Boston Consulting Group, 2012). The availability and increased penetration of faster broadband speeds has been estimated to add £17 billion to the UK’s annual GVA output by 2024, an increase of 0.07 percent (SQW, 2013).