Fixed-line internet connections fall in UK

The number of fixed-line internet subscriptions has fallen for two consecutive quarters, according to the Office for National Statistics

The UK saw a drop in the number of fixed-line internet connections over the third quarter of this year, the Office for National Statistics has said.

In its quarterly Internet Connectivity report, published on Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) noted that, while broadband connections have risen from 92.8 percent to 94.1 percent of all internet connections in the UK, the total number of active fixed-line internet subscriptions has fallen by 0.4 percent quarter on quarter.

This marks the second consecutive quarter of declining internet-subscription levels, with the second quarter of this year showing a 0.6 percent drop. Previous quarters showed continual growth.

The ONS attributed the latest drop largely to the continuing decline of dial-up connections — down by 18.6 percent between June and September 2008. However, as it would be reasonable to assume that those leaving dial-up would be replacing it with a faster form of internet connectivity, the drop in dial-up figures still does not fully explain the drop in the overall figures for fixed connectivity.

ZDNet UK asked Mark Pollard, the statistician behind the report, what other factors might be at work. He pointed out that the report is based on figures from the internet service providers (ISPs) themselves, so inaccuracy in those figures might play a part in the apparent drop. "All we can do is report what the ISPs tell us," he said.

Pollard was unwilling to say whether or not the rapid rise of mobile broadband might be another factor. In August, the telecoms regulator Ofcom said there had been more than half a million new mobile-broadband connections made in the UK between February and June of this year. On Monday, the research company Nielsen also said it estimated the number of Britons using mobile broadband had gone up by 25 percent between the second and third quarters of this year. The ONS, however, only measures fixed-line internet connections.

"It's not something that we measure, so it's not possible for me to say whether mobile broadband has a bearing or not," Pollard said.

The ONS also showed in its quarterly report that 57.7 percent of broadband connections now have speeds above 2Mbps — up from 55.8 percent the previous quarter.