Following the broadband money

Britons addicted to mobile, broadband, says Ofcom

with 12 comments

Ever since the government’s digital engagement czarina Martha Lane Fox told Twitter that she’d dropped her mobile phone into the lavatory, it’s been clear that some Britons are addicted to their communicators.

Communications regulator confirmed this on 4 August in its 2011 Communications Market report. It found almost four out of 10 adults and six out of 10 teenagers admitted they were “highly addicted”.

The study shows a massive shift from fixed line communications to mobile, as well as huge growth in mobile data traffic. The number of mobile voice minutes has grown by 250% over the past decade from 35 billion to 125 billion a year, and text messages have increased from 7 billion to 129 billion per year. Mobile data traffic has skyrocketed 40-fold since 2007, Ofcom said.

Despite BT saying it added some 87,000 new copper lines over the past two or three quarters, Ofcom found that the percentage of UK homes with fixed lines dropped from 93% in 2000 to 81% today, and one in seven homes were “mobile-only”.

Overall revenue from telecommunications was down 2%, Ofcom said. Mobile revenues were up 1%, but fixed voice and broadband revenues dropped 3% and 6% respectively, largely due to competition and regulatory action. However,  26% of advertising spend is on the internet, marginally ahead of television.  Internet advertising spend grew by 16% in 2010 to over £4bn, and mobile advertising increased by 121% in 2010 to reach £83m.

A striking feature of the market has been the switch to smartphones, with its implications for a big shift in traffic patterns and hence network build. Almost six in 10 people who have a smartphone acquired it with the past year. As a result, 27% of adults and 47% of teenagers now use a smartphone, Ofcom found.

Smartphone users make a lot more calls and send more texts than regular mobile users. Ofcom said 81% of smartphone users make calls every day compared with 53% of “regular” users). “Teenagers especially are ditching more traditional activities in favour of their smartphone, with 23% claiming to watch less TV and 15% admitting they read fewer books,” Ofcom said.

Usage figures reveal the development of an “always-on” culture. Eight out of 10 smartphone users have their mobiles switched on all the time, even in bed. Over half (51%) of adults and two-thirds (65%) of teenagers admit using their smartphone while socialising with others, nearly a quarter (23%) of adults and a third (34%) of teenagers have used them during mealtimes, and over a fifth (22%) of adults and nearly half (47%) of teenagers admitted using or answering their smartphones in the bathroom or lavatory.

This extends to fixed networks too. Just over three-quarters of homes are now connected to the internet compared to one-quarter in 2000. Total UK broadband take-up increased by three percentage points to 74% by 1Q2011. The largest increase in adoption was from those using fixed services, mainly among older age groups, Ofcom said.

By May 2011, around 500,000 households had adopted superfast (greater than 30Mbps) broadband, a fivefold increase from 2010. Nearly six out of 10 homes were “passed” by either Virgin Media’s cable service or BT’s fibre to the cabinet Infinity product.

People were happier with their high speed service that their previous broadband by eight to six, with most high speed users saying they were more likely to use it to download high definition video.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/04 at 06:28

12 Responses

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  1. Interesting.
    An average household spends just under £100 on its comms according to ofcom. So if that household had a fibre connection (real NGA not just ‘superfast’) and all the comms could go through that then it could save a lot of money…
    … if that is an ‘average’ and if ofcom’s figures are correct, then some families could save far more than that. I think the TV figure is fixed because of the licence fee, but all the rest could come through a fibre far cheaper than it is coming through the copper and airwaves?


    2011/08/04 at 06:37

    • I think you are missing the bit about the mobile “addiction”. That’s the reason to get fat fibre pipes into the moors, dales and fells – to feed that addiction with FiWi.

      Ian Grant

      2011/08/04 at 06:55

      • 3G base stations interconnect nicely with fixed wireless links (microwave dishes).


        2011/08/04 at 08:33

    • The biggest cost item is the mobile comms, having your beloved fibre would not in my opinion make a whole lot of difference to this.

      If someone wants a mobile number in order to be contactable and then wants to be able to make calls they’ll be using the cellular network and the mobile spend will be similar, surely ?

      If we can’t manage ubiquitous 2G mobile then ubiquitous wi-fi is an order of magnitude more difficult and I would suggest impractical. VoIP simply hasn’t taken off and mobile Skype in the main uses mobile nets to carry the data. So the mobile spend isn’t going to help your fibre business case here, any more than it has anywhere else in the world.


      2011/08/04 at 08:44

      • VoIP, or rather Skype, has taken off, according to Telegeography In fact, Skype has carried more international voice minutes than the traditional operators for a couple of years, which has probably played a part in driving down operators’ sales and hammered their profits. If you have free calls via a private network or a friendly operator, there’s not much need to use VoIP.

        Ian Grant

        2011/08/04 at 19:38

  2. Agree, but I don’t think of it as an addiction, no more so than we are addicted to fresh water or electricity. I think its just another utility. Interesting that people have embraced mobiles, we didn’t need millions spending on promoting their use, handing out free ones or countless consultations and czars to get people to use them isn’t it?
    I also agree that we need the fat pipes all over the country so that everyone can use them. Most rural areas have little or no coverage, and fibre to the masts would mean there is capacity everywhere.


    2011/08/04 at 08:07

    • There is fibre all over the country, virtually all exchanges have fibre for their connectivity. Mobile masts can have fibre or radio links.

      So what saving would there be with FTTP, would Sky Sports suddenly become free? What does the TV licence have to do with costs?

      Time for everyone to understand reality…


      2011/08/04 at 17:58

  3. […] This post was Twitted by laurentbon […]

  4. Is the same graph twice in the article, or has some part of me failed ?

    £28 per month on TV – presumably this represents some 10m Sky subscribers and 5m VM customers with the other half of households spending nowt ?

    Many FTTH schemes have relied on triple play to make them sustainable but presumably that model goes titsup when it hits free TV consumers.


    2011/08/04 at 08:39

    • Quite right about the duplicate graph – sorry everyone. The correct one is now in place, if you fancy a reality check about making money from telecoms.

      Ian Grant

      2011/08/04 at 19:28

  5. […] Via Br0kenT3l3ph0n3 Creative fields: Technology […]

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