Massive investment in internet infrastructure could mean cash bonanza for construction.
Construction spend on internet data centres could be £500m in the UK and up to £3.5bn in Europe over the next three years, figures released to Building reveal.

The real estate consulting group at Ernst & Young said the co-location centre market was still buoyant and there were plans for 13 centres in the UK in the next year subject to market conditions. These projects usually have a construction value of about £50m.

Ernst & Young will also release a report next month forecasting a major drive by telecommunications firms to create buildings housing digital data and local cable-laying programs for transmitting internet data.

Richard Ireland, partner in Ernst & Young's global telecoms practice, forecast major opportunities for construction at last week's Building-organised conference, Winning Work in the Telecoms Sector, sponsored by iScraper.

Ireland said the opportunities for construction lay in the move to broadband telephone access that will allow much faster internet access.

He said: "For example, a movie has to be stored in a server in a building so a user can download it to their home computer." "The demand will be so huge I don't think anyone has the concept of the kind of business park needed." The report, called Executive Exchange, is a result of interviews with 120 chief executive officers from telecoms companies.

Global Switch, client behind the transformation of the Financial Times Printworks in London Docklands into a co-location centre, is understood to be planning a second centre in east London.

But Ireland warned that the telecoms market was unstable, and firms should ensure potential clients have a solid financial background.

He said: "Choose customers and partners carefully. The sector is so fast-moving and deals are done very quickly." Small firms will also see raft of work in setting up masts for mobile telephones to take third-generation mobile technology.

Vodafone Radio Networks executive Roger Wilkins said that the firm needed 1000 base stations a year. The work involves locating and surveying sites then erecting mobile receiver masts, ideal for smaller companies.

He said: "We are looking for people to join us in creating a good impression on the general public."

How to tell a server farm from a switch centre

If you are going to work in telecoms, it helps to know what these are: Co-location centre, telehotel, server farm, hosting centre, data centre are all names for large buildings of up to 10,000 ft2 with complex air-conditioning that house rack of computers linked to the internet. The computers can host information for individual companies, commercial internet suppliers or telecommunications companies. This may be anything from company websites to films that can be accessed using the internet. These centres have to be operational 24 hours a day. Global Switch and Level 3 develop co-location centres. A switch centre is a smaller building that links mobile and land-line telephones in the same way as a telephone exchange.