eBay pushes policymakers on mobile broadband

Online retailer eBay is telling the British government and regulators to stop dragging their heels on plans for next generation data connectivity in the UK. 

eBay has it figured out that, actually, in five to ten year’s time lots of us are going to be spending money on our mobile devices. But a stickler to getting to that point is the UK’s comparitively poor data connectivity. 

In an eBay paper with the catchy title “Seizing the Mobile Retail Opportunity,” UK Retail Director Angus McCarey says the speed of change we’re going to see over the next five will completely trounce the last ten years. 

eBay has packed its public affair execs off to Ofcom’s doorstep, where the Silicon Valley company is recommending it proceeds with the 4G auction as fast as possible. It believes Ofcom needs to prioritise broadband coverage rollouts in rural areas and on transport routes like railway and roads.

It also warns against monopoly, urging Ofcom to make it easier for smaller companies to access spectrum, as well as pushing white space technology.

The argument to us seems to be: people are still buying despite the recession. Enabling mobile devices to make shopping simple, easy, fun and perhaps addictive, consumers could provide a substantial boost to the economy.

Many companies at the forefront of mobile technology agree that the world is moving towards an always-connected environment and with that comes convergence. “Phrases like e-commerce or m-commerce will become increasingly meaningless,” eBay’s McCarey said, “there will just be commerce.”

If you’re always on with a decent connection the window of opportunity for consuming isn’t just a lunch break or on your laptop at home – it’s all the time. Not only that, but the relatively high cost of data really does put off shoppers, according to a survey eBay commissioned for the report.

Speaking to TechEye, Clare Moore-Bridger at eBay told us that there’s a paradox in the UK economy: “We’re leading the way in so many aspects of mobile adoption, but lagging behind in our infrastructure,” she said. “Current problems with slow download speeds are only likely to get worse as smartphone usage peaks and data demand heats up.”

Moore-Bridger said that, while signs of O2 committing to trialling 4G mobile internet in London are very encouraging, “we need more wide-ranging action, spurred on and supported by policymakers.”

The first and most important step, according to Moore-Bridger, must be taken by Ofcom: “The number one priority for Ofcom should be to proceed with the auction of the 4G spectrum as quickly as possible to enable the rollout of next generation broadband in 2013.”