In the U.K., average monthly time online has increased by 94 percent to around seven hours per month per Net user. This contrasts sharply with France and Germany where online browsing has leapt up 225 percent and 226 percent respectively. Germany heads the table, with surfers there spending an average of 13 hours online each month. They are closely followed by Spanish and Norwegian surfers who clock up nine hours, and Italian surfers just behind with a monthly average of eight hours online.
The figures, contained a report by research firm Jupiter MMXI, will be bad news for U.K. advertisers and ISPs. They are particularly surprising given that the U.K. is the only country to offer Friaco-based services, which give users as much Internet time as they want for a fixed monthly fee. According to Jupiter analyst Dan Stevenson, the difference in time spent online is due to cultural factors. "German Internet users like to use community sites which are sticky and also they really like technology -- reading about it, downloading applications, and so on," he said.
Stevenson said that, despite Friaco, Internet services are still cheaper on the continent. "It is marketed differently there. There are a lot of bundled packages where you get a certain number of hours for a monthly fee," he said. On the continent even heavy users are able to find packages which suit them, he said, citing the case of Deutsche Telekom which toyed with a Friaco-style flat-rate service but is now reverting to the bundling model.
Another Jupiter analyst, Staffan Engdegard, believes the figures show that the Internet market is robust and healthy.
"The tremendous growth in time spent online, together with a steady increase in the number of Internet users, confirms that the Internet itself is not affected by the current financial issues some dot-coms are facing," he said. He also has a more optimistic view than many about the future of Internet advertising.
"The softening Internet advertising market is primarily a result of reality catching up with dot-coms' extravagant spending. It's now up to the sellers of Internet advertising to show traditional advertisers the most efficient and effective ways of reaching the growing Internet audience."