UK's Internet access reaches plateau

Latest official figures show the rise in the percentage of homes and businesses with Internet connections has tailed off

The Internet boom may be over in the UK, with latest figures showing no significant rise in the number of homes and business getting online.

In figures published on Tuesday, telecoms regulator Oftel said the growth in Internet take-up by residential customers had slowed over the last year, and now shows no obvious further increase. According to its figures, the ratio of UK homes with Internet access is currently stable at just over four in ten households.

"Currently 42 percent of UK homes have Internet access. Following slowed growth in home Internet penetration it appears to have reached a plateau, having remained at a broadly similar level in the last 12 months," said Oftel.

As ZDNet UK previously reported, figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that by November last year the number of dial-up customers was actually dropping as users migrated to broadband.

Growth in the take-up of Internet use in the business world has also tailed off.

According to Oftel's latest figures -- for August-November 2002 -- 67 percent of all SMEs are linked to the Internet, the same as in its research for May-August 2002. The number of medium-sized businesses with Internet access appears to be reaching saturation, at 97 percent penetration, said Oftel.

The figures suggest that many small and medium-sized firms are abandoning ISDN in favour of broadband, with dial-up connections also proving more popular.

Oftel found that 63 percent of SMEs now have a dial-up connection, up from 55 percent in May 2002, while the percentage with broadband is now 13 percent, compared with 9 percent in May 2002.

This is mirrored by a drop over the same period in the number using ISDN -- down to 26 percent from 36 percent. The proportion with a leased line remained rose from 3 percent to 4 percent. Oftel's figures add up to more than 100 percent because some firms use more than one of these technologies.

For a round-up of the latest on ISPs, broadband and related issues, see the Telecoms News Section.

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