Ofcom survey reveals changing landscape of UK network use

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/tbradford)

Ofcom has released the results of its latest Communications Market Report survey which reveals the changing landscape of how consumers are using various networks.

British consumers are now spending more time on the internet than ever – so much that 15 million respondents are seeking a complete disconnect to focus on things such as spending time with friends and family. 

“The internet has revolutionised our lives for the better, but our love affair with the web is not always plain surfing,” said Ofcom director of market intelligence, Jane Rumble. “Millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives and going on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance.” 

Nine in 10 premises now have access to superfast broadband according to Ofcom, which is up from 83 percent last year. Statistics from ThinkBroadband appear to confirm this claim with their own findings showing that 90 percent of homes and business have access to 'superfast' broadband of at least 24Mbps. 

"While the 24 Mbps 90% target has been reached we are not going to stop tracking the coverage, our next goal is to see the 90% breached for 30 Mbps and faster services and then track how the UK is progressing towards the 95% goal, and there will also be the G.fast roll-outs to start tracking," wrote ThinkBroadband in a press release. 

Ofcom is committed to delivering at least 10Mbps connections – which the regulator has been criticised for being unambitious  across the UK after the Digital Economy Bill decided broadband access is "a right." The regulator has defended the 10Mbps speed as realistic and ok for most activities such as video streaming. 

With mobile connections getting faster and more reliable – often more so than fixed broadband – it's becoming almost impossible to disconnect. Some workplaces require their employees to have access to emails and other communication methods 24/7 which makes it even more difficult to switch off your mobile data (as if the lure of social media wasn't enough.) 

4G now accounts for 46 percent of all mobile connections, up from 28 percent in 2014. An impressive 98 percent of homes now have access to at least one 4G network offered by the major operators, whilst 71 percent are covered by all four. 

Device ownership has also soared, with 71 percent of adults now owning a smartphone compared to 66 percent last year. Along with this growth in smartphone ownership is a significant boost in data use with 89 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds and 25 to 34-year-olds, 77 percent of 35 to 54-year-olds, 50 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds, and 21 percent of over-65s using web and data services. 

Text messaging, as predicted, is on the decline in favour of instant messaging – as is email. 43 percent of adults now use an OTT (Over-The-Top) service like WhatsApp at least once a week – up from 28 percent in 2014. Services dedicated to photo messaging such as Snapchat are now used by 21 percent of adults weekly, up from 14 percent in 2014. 

Changes to how consumers are using networks and becoming more absorbed in their devices is also leading to new social problems such as more people bumping into each other by accident on the street or being "snubbed" by friends or family on their devices. 

These are just some of the highlights of the report which also contains other insights you may find interesting on TV and radio. You can find the full report here, but grab yourself a strong coffee and prepare to settle in for a while because it's 266 pages long. 

What are your thoughts on how UK consumers are using networks? Let us know in the comments. 

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