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Brits spending record time online

And playing with their mobiles...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

And playing with their mobiles...

Brits are more comms obsessed than ever, according to Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator has released its fifth annual communications market report, which shows people in the UK are spending more time than ever consuming a variety of comms and media services.

On average, Britons spend a total of seven hours and nine minutes per day surfing the net, using mobile phones, talking on landline telephones, watching TV and listening to the radio, up from an average of just six minutes back in 2002.

Internet and mobile phones have seen the biggest usage increases: time spent on PCs and laptops grew fourfold between 2002 and 2007 - from six minutes to 24 minutes per person per day; while time spent talking and texting on mobiles doubled over the same period, from five minutes to 10 minutes per day.

Broadband penetration also grew in the last year, creeping up from 52 per cent of households to 58 per cent - mainly as a result of dial-up internet users upgrading to fat pipes, the report said. Speeds are also on the up: Ofcom said the average blended headline speed across the UK was 5.9Mbps at the end of the first quarter of 2008, up from 3.6Mbps in December 2006.

Faster fat pipes are down to BT continuing to roll out 8Mbps services across its network, according to the report, along with increases in the number of premises with access to unbundled local exchanges.

Mobile broadband is also on the march, with Brits taking to data cards and dongles in droves. Between February and June 2008, the number of dongle sales to consumers nearly doubled from 69,000 to 133,000 per month, the report found. During this period there were 511,000 new mobile broadband connections in the UK.

Ofcom said more than one in 10 mobile users have accessed the internet on their mobile phone, with the number of 3G mobile connections growing by 60 per cent in 2007 to reach 12.5 million subscribers - an increase of 4.7 million in a year.

But even as mobile's star rises, landline phones are languishing in their cradles: seven out of 10 people with a mobile and a landline still use their mobile to make calls even when they are at home. And one in 10 people with a landline at home say they never use it to make calls.

The report also reveals a generation gap, with over-65s very keen on landline phones - with take-up of 99 per cent in the first quarter of 2008, some 10 per cent higher than the UK average. Yet use of mobile phones, PC ownership, home access to the internet and broadband take-up were all lower than average in this age group.

There were almost 74 million mobile connections by the end of 2007, serving a population of 60 million in the UK - an increase of 3.7 million connections since the end of 2006. The total number of mobile connections has almost doubled since 2002, increasing by 48 per cent.

Consumers are not only spending more time with technology, they are paying less for it too, the report claims. The average household outlay on comms was £93.63 per month in 2007, a drop of £1.53 (1.6 per cent) on the average spend in 2006, and a fall of £4.31 (4.4 per cent) since 2004.

Ofcom cites various reasons why Brits are getting better value for money on comms, including lower prices for broadband; bundled discounted services such as triple-play offerings from one provider for landline, broadband and pay-TV; and a greater willingness to switch providers to get a better deal.

The UK's love affair with text shows no signs of abating. Last year nearly 60 billion text messages were sent, up more than a third (36 per cent) since 2006 and an increase of 234 per cent since 2002 when 17 billion texts were sent. The average mobile user sent 67 texts per month last year.

It's a different story for VoIP: the number of people using net telephony services dropped from 20 per cent in 2006 to 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2008, the report found.

Ofcom's Communications Market 2008 (August) can be found here.

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