Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ofcom's 2012 Communications Market Review

Yesterday Ofcom published its 2012 Communications Market Review (press release here). A few headline points of interest:
  • Traditional forms of communications are declining in popularity, with the overall time spent on the phone falling by 5% in 2011. This reflects a 10% fall in the volume of calls from landlines, and for the first time ever, a fall in the volume of mobile calls (by just over 1%) in 2011.
  • UK households now own on average three different types of internet-enabled device – such as a laptop, smartphone or internet-enabled games console – with 15% owning six or more devices.
  • Four in ten (39%) adults now own a smartphone, a 12 percentage point increase on 2010.
  • Internet connected ‘smart TVs’ are growing in popularity with 5% of UK households now owning one, giving consumers the ability to ‘Turf’ – both watch TV and surf the web.
  • Home internet access went up by three percentage points to 80% - the largest rise was among 65 to 74 year olds, increasing nine percentage points to 64% between Q1 2011 and 2012.
  • However, year-on-year growth of the UK online audience has slowed to 1.6%. Since January 2004 the number of desktop/laptop internet users in the UK rose by an average of 6.2% each year to 39.7 million in January 2012. However, annual growth has slowed from 10.3% in January 2009 to just 1.6% in January 2012. Average time online per month per internet user stood at 23.5 hours for 2011.
  • A third of people aged 16-24 lived in homes where mobiles were the sole form of telecoms in Q1 2012 – more than double the 15% average across the UK. 
  • The total number of UK fixed broadband connections passed 20 million for the first time in 2011. In addition, the number of mobile broadband connections passed 5 million during the year, and by the first quarter of 2012 76% of UK homes had a broadband connection of some description, with most of these (84%) relying solely on a fixed broadband connection.
  • BT and Virgin Media’s superfast broadband services were available to around 60% of UK homes by March 2012.  This was seven percentage points higher than a year previously, mainly as a result of BT’s ongoing fibre-to-the-cabinet rollout. At the end of March 2012 there were 1.4 million UK superfast broadband connections,equating to 6.6% of all connections.
If home Internet access stands at 80% and 76% of homes have broadband, 4% of households must still be reliant on dial-up? Separate Ofcom releases focused on developments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of particular note is that Northern Ireland has the highest availability of superfast broadband in the UK, with superfast services being available to around 94% of premises, compared to 60% for the UK as a whole.

Both ISP Review and ZDnet focused on the low takeup of superfast services, while the BBC's coverage was more general. ISP Review note that the takeup of superfast services, while still a small proportion of the whole, has increased significantly over the last year:
"...Ofcom notes that this 6.6% figure still equates to 960,000 (162%) more than there had been a year previously (i.e. 2.1% in Q1-2011). The regulator expects a significant rise over the coming years as Virgin Media, which can reach around half of the country, continues to upgrade its customers cable broadband speeds and coverage of BT’s FTTC technology increases towards passing 66% of premises in 2014 (possibly 90% by 2016/2017 if it wins the lion’s share of government funding)."

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