The pandemic brought a stark reminder to every organisation employing knowledge workers just how fundamental to operations good connectivity is, but European businesses could be missing out on billions of pounds as 74% have experienced at least two hours of downtime every week, according to a study from cloud-delivered LTE and 5G wireless network edge services provider Cradlepoint.
The State of connectivity in Europe report was based on the findings of Censuswide research of more than 3,000 respondents across the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.
Respondents were all technology decision-makers, comprising business owners, C-level executives or senior managers at businesses with more than 250 employees. Vertical sectors polled included building, arts and culture, education, finance, healthcare, HR, IT and telecoms, legal, manufacturing and utilities, retail, catering and leisure, travel and transport, government, first responders, public transportation, automotive, building management, supply chain and logistics, maritime, and agriculture.
With Statista stating that an hour of downtime for a global business can cost £290,000, the downtime discovered in the report represents a huge cost to European economies. In addition, connectivity problems were found to have resulted in greater operating costs for 47% of businesses, and 33% reported losing potential business as a result of connectivity issues.
Poor connectivity was also seen to have led a fifth (21%) of European firms to lose talent due to the impacts of poor connectivity, increasing the challenge for firms as they face an already-tight labour market.
Lack of investment is not just holding back businesses either, with 80% of respondents stating poor connectivity was limiting pupils from developing the skills necessary to thrive and succeed in a modern economy. Likewise, 80% agreed that improving free connectivity would help eliminate the divide between poorer and richer students.
By contrast, enhancing connectivity could potentially have a significant positive economic effect, with 36% of respondents stating it could generate a financial impact of between £1m and £10m on their economy. It also found businesses overwhelmingly agreed that improved connectivity would increase their resilience to future shocks, with 90.5% agreeing it would help them manage potential economic, societal and political challenges.
However, this realisation does not appear to have reached governments. As many as 46% of businesses felt their governments were not investing enough in connectivity projects.
In the UK specifically, the survey found poor connectivity particularly hinders progress in rural areas, greatly affecting local businesses and economies. In fact, 84% agree poor connectivity in rural areas means they would set up a new business in a city. Further to this, 79% agree rural areas are being left behind in medical innovation due to poor connectivity, and 73% agree the NHS digital transformation strategy is being held back due to poor connectivity in hospitals.
In April 2023, the UK government released its roadmap for wireless infrastructure, which announced investing £40m to drive the take-up of innovative 5G-enabled services for business and the public sector.
James Bristow, Cradlepoint’s senior vice-president for EMEA, said: “It is reassuring that the UK government has finally released its strategy for improving wireless infrastructure nationwide. Providing clarity and, crucially, funding for 5G and 4G planning is always a welcomed step in response to the roadmap and the survey findings. However, the proof will be in the execution, and these guidelines must be followed up with strong action to ensure the goals are met.
“While this plan is a step in the right direction, the deadline of 2030 is still several years away, and the objectives leave lots of room for improvement,” he said. “For example, only getting 5G to populated areas means rural areas will continue to be left behind – often the places that need the most attention.
“[This means] existing digital and productivity gaps will also persist in the future. If the government is truly determined to establish the UK as a leading nation in the world of wireless infrastructure and unlock the benefits this can bring to businesses, much more support is needed.”