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Superfast broadband: Brits still slow to sign up

But smartphone take-up growing sharply, says Ofcom...

But smartphone take-up growing sharply, says Ofcom...

The UK continues to lag behind on fixed-line superfast broadband take-up, according to telecoms watchdog Ofcom.

Despite 25Mbps+ broadband services being available to the 48 per cent of UK households passed by Virgin Media's cable service and the circa 20 per cent of premises passed by BT's fibre to the cabinet superfast services as the telco extends its fibre footprint, just four per cent of UK households have signed up for the next-gen speeds of 25Mbps or more, according to the Ofcom International Communications Market Report 2011.

Superfast broadband

Superfast broadband: The UK continues to lag behind on adoption, says OfcomPhoto: Shutterstock

This is significantly lower than rates of superfast broadband take-up elsewhere in the world: 40 per cent of consumers in Japan have signed up to superfast broadband, according to Ofcom, along with 13 per cent in Sweden and 10 per cent in the US.

However the report notes Europe generally lags the rest of the world on superfast broadband take-up, with adoption in countries including Germany, France, Italy and Spain being around the same as or lower than take-up in the UK.

The UK also lags behind several countries when it comes to the next generation of mobile network technology, with Japan, Sweden and the US having launched Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile networks already. LTE enables theoretical speeds of up to 100Mbps but, in practice, real-world speeds achieved by mobile users of these next-gen networks are likely to be far less.

In the UK, delays to spectrum auctions continue to push back the rollout of faster mobile networks. The Ofcom reports notes that LTE services are expected to launch in the UK in 2013 or 2014, following spectrum auctions in the second half of next year.

The UK is speeding ahead in one area though: smartphone take-up in the UK is growing rapidly, the Ofcom report notes. Among the big five European countries, smartphone adoption is highest in the UK - with close to half (46 per cent) of mobile users owning a smartphone. The same proportion of UK internet users have also accessed the web on their mobile phone, according to Ofcom - a higher rate than in the US (41 per cent), Italy (40 per cent), France (39 per cent) and Germany (38 per cent).

The report found that the average time spent online on a computer declined in most countries between 2010 and 2011, with Ofcom speculating this decline is likely to be due to rising numbers of consumers accessing the web on their mobile devices.

New types of internet-connected devices are also on the rise, Ofcom found, with tablet computers being used by nine per cent of UK consumers and four per cent of Brits using internet-connected TVs.

In other findings, social network continues to be popular with web-users, with the majority (71 per cent) of Brits who have a social network profile visiting a social network site on a daily basis, the report notes, while a fifth (20 per cent) visit social network sites five times a day or more, and between 30 and 40 per cent of UK consumers use a mobile phone to access their social network profile.

Despite this national passion for social networking, there are significant levels of concern about online and social network data privacy in the UK. Almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) of UK consumers said they have concerns about how their personal data is being used by social networking sites, and a majority (64 per cent) said they have concerns about personal privacy online.

Brits are also continuing their love affair with online shopping, according to the report. The vast majority (82 per cent) of UK consumers use their internet connection for shopping - a higher proportion than in the other European countries surveyed by Ofcom. UK web users spend an average of 84 minutes on retail websites each month, according to the report.