The high cost of phone calls in the UK is hindering Internet growth, a panel of industry experts said today.
Speaking at an Intel hosted 'Question Time' style conference, the panel, which included Intel executives, lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox and Professor Michael Earl of the London business school, all agreed that high call costs resulted in low Internet usage.
Although the Intel executives would not be drawn into directly criticising British Telecom, Gordon Graylish, Intel director of marketing, admitted that costs were currently "too high."
"It does have a negative impact long term. We are encouraging them [BT] to lower these charges, which are higher here than in other countries. The cost of the Internet is higher than it needs to be in the UK," he said.
Professor Michael Earl, of the London business school, said he believed government regulation and policy had a lot to do with the high costs and said the campaign for unmetered telecoms access was a good idea. The campaign is in favour of a fixed monthly rate for unlimited Internet access.
"The free Internet service provider (ISP) phenomenon - where the traditional monthly subscription charge is dropped in favour of alternative revenue sources - is a critical milestone on the path of the emerging Internet economy," said James Eibisch, IDC analyst, in a report.
Mobile phones will be the main driver in ecommerce growth in Europe, argued panel member Martha Lane Fox, saying that their proliferation would result in Europe "leapfrogging" the US in ecommerce adoption in a few years' time.
"The adoption of mobile phones in Europe is greater than anywhere else," she said.
She added that new features on phones such as video screens and wireless Internet access mean that users will be able to use applications including booking restaurants online via a phone.
Lane Fox said that Lastminute.com will float in the first half of the year, but said she does not see Lastminute.com, which sells a range of products such as holidays, theatre tickets and restaurant bookings, as an Internet company.
"We are a new media retailer, trying to facilitate something you can't do offline. It's about price and convenience.
"We take excess capacity from suppliers and offer it at a discounted price. We can also deliver goods in a very tight time frame," she said.
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