UK 'lagging on VoIP usage'

The poor rate of broadband adoption in Britain at the start of the decade has been blamed for slow adoption of Internet telephony today

The UK is lagging behind Europe on the take-up of VoIP, according to a report published on Tuesday, and its failure to adopt broadband as early as other countries is taking the blame.

The EIAA claimed on Tuesday that 10 percent of Europeans had made telephone calls over the Web but only 5 percent had done so in the UK.

Alison Fennah, executive director of the EIAA, blamed the UK's slow broadband adoption rates for the sluggish start of VoIP. "Countries like France have a history of using more complex services and products. They had high levels of broadband adoption and are more used to using the services that it offers," she said.

Fennah argued that although the UK has caught up with European broadband usage, consumers are still warming up to broadband services such as VoIP, while countries such as France and Germany have had more time to become acclimatised.

A few years ago, broadband penetration in the UK lagged way behind that of other developed nations. According to the OECD, there were just 0.6 percent broadband connections per hundred UK inhabitants, compared to 1 percent in France and 2.3 percent in Germany. The UK didn't catch up with France until the third quarter of 2004, when both were recorded to have 8.8 broadband connections per hundred people.

But Skype, the popular Internet telephony service, doesn't see the UK as a VoIP laggard.

"We've found that the number of people using Skype in the UK is not lagging behind their European counterparts — in fact, for Skype, we've had fantastic pick-up in the UK and we are only behind Germany, France and Poland," said Kat James, a Skype spokeswoman.

"Then again, we call it Internet calling, a much more consumer friendly term than VoIP," James added.

The EIAA also found that British consumers spend more time on the Internet than any other country in Europe, bar France. British online users spend an average of 11 hours a week on the Internet, while the French average 13 hours a week.

The study, which quizzed 7,000 users across Europe, showed that the average European Internet user now spends 17 percent longer on the Internet than it did a year ago. The average surfing time has grown from 10 hours 15 minutes a week online from 8hrs 45mins a week in 2004.