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Well 2012 was certainly a great year for the Brits. The eyes of the world were watching as we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and played host to a magnificent celebration of sporting talent with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, where we actually did pretty well. But, moving back to business, what happened in 2012 that affected the IT industry? Here is a little reminder of this year’s key events, debates and market trends.

Elsa Chen, General Manager

Elsa Chen, General Manager

Superfast broadband

This seems to have filled the industry news on a weekly basis this year. If it’s not the Government’s targets and deadlines or latest plans to provide super connected cities and obtain more EU funding, its progress updates on the various BDUK projects that are going on across the country. Whilst most of us are pleased with the development of superfast broadband in the UK there has still been a lot of debate around the details.

Firstly, the Government’s announcement of further funding to support ‘super connected cities’ caused concern that they were focussing too much on urban areas and not attempting to solve the digital divide that already exists. Whilst we applaud their efforts to roll out superfast broadband (in this case up to 100Mbps) we agree with many of the critics that more focus needs to be placed on areas currently struggling on sub 2Mbps speeds. A large number of businesses within these city locations are already taking advantage of high end connectivity through services such as Ethernet.

That brings us nicely on to another key talking point of 2012. Following the ongoing scrutiny of the Government’s broadband plans the House of Lords launched an inquiry and also argued that rather than focusing on speed the Government should be trying to solve the digital divide and provide affordable broadband services to the current not- spots.

So why are the Government spending all this money on broadband? Well they believe it is going to help boost the UK economy, significantly. This is one of those ‘wait and see’ moment’s I’m afraid as we won’t be able to measure the true effects for several years, but a fit for purpose infrastructure will surely help businesses to cut costs, enter new markets and hopefully thrive. The Government seems to think so at least and is definitely putting its money where its mouth is.

Controversial legislation and guidelines

In 2012 we saw a number of controversial rules and regulations introduced, often much to the annoyance of the industry. First up were the highly debated ASA/CAP advertising guidelines which aim to change the way in which headline speeds are advertised. Despite a lot of concern over further complicating the comparison process for consumers and causing confusion these guidelines appear to have had very little impact on the market since their implementation in April and most providers seem to be abiding by the new guidelines to date. This is definitely one to keep an eye on though, especially as they have just been extended to mobile broadband providers.

We also saw a new EU law dubbed the ‘cookie law’ come into force which means all websites must now advise that they store cookies and give the visitor the option to opt out of this. This meant all websites needed to include a new notification and settings system which most have now appeared to adopt without too much fuss. The threat of the £500,000 fine probably helped to convince them.

We did have some good news in 2012 regarding controversial laws. The highly criticised ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) initially looked like yet another law that had been sneakily introduced without proper scrutiny, bringing with it scary flashbacks of the DEA’s underhand approval. However, the European Parliament saved the day by rejecting the agreement due to its impact on civil liberties and ambiguous nature which they felt was too open to abuse.

Unfortunately, our beloved DEA already covers most of the controversial matters in ACTA so it looks like the UK will still be subject to these rules which are quite obviously biased in favour of the entertainment industry and inflict disproportionate punishments on those accused of breaking them.

One debate that is sure to continue into next year will be the Communications Bill. This Bill seeks to protect our nation against crime and terrorism by storing and monitoring all electronic communications from phone calls through to emails and website browsing and is, expectedly, causing huge amounts of debate throughout the industry, the Government and amongst privacy advocates. Whilst we all understand the need to protect ourselves against such threats the current draft Bill leaves far too much open to abuse and so far very little detail has been provided as to how the Government aims to protect our data and guard against potential abuse. This debate will rage on for the foreseeable future no doubt, just like the debate over its predecessor the IMP (Internet Modernisation Programme) did.

2012’s key market trends

As predicted, we continued to see growth in the hosted applications market this year as Cloud and VoIP continued to dominate the industry news. A welcoming factor to this discussion is the fact that most resellers are now realising the importance of the underlying connectivity when implementing these solutions and we have seen an increase in demand for services to support such applications.

Whilst superfast broadband has dominated the news this year we have seen a significant increase in demand for Ethernet and EFM based solutions, leading us to believe that for many businesses speed is not the overriding factor when considering their connectivity requirements. Many still require the guarantees and dedicated service that Ethernet based services provide. This is great news for our resellers as not only can they exploit the demand for the highly publicised superfast broadband services but there also remain ample opportunities to resell higher end connectivity solutions too.

Was our crystal ball accurate?

In last year’s round up article we made a number of predictions for 2012 and we are pleased to say that most of them were accurate. We correctly predicted that superfast broadband would be the key conversation point of 2012 and that was certainly the case. We expect this will be the same throughout 2013 too as the BDUK continues its bidding process and the plans move into development and implementation stage. In fact this will probably be the case for the next few years as we continue towards the 2015 deadlines.

We expected implementation of the DEA to cause controversy in 2012 but this contentious Act has hit yet further delays and implementation of its controversial three strikes policy is now expected to start in 2014 following a lengthy Ofcom consultation. Maybe there is still hope that this Act will be scrapped after all.

Next year, we expect the focus to remain on superfast broadband and predict more debate around the Communications Bill as it starts to be debated in Parliament.

Have your say!

What issues have affected you and your business in 2012? What are your predictions for 2013? Let us know your thoughts and share your experiences by leaving us a comment below.

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