Mobile phones dominate UK, but TV lives on

Nine out of 10 people I the UK have a mobile phone, but TV remains the most resilient of communications technologies, rating as the most missed media if it was taken away, according to a new report.

Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report looked at the changes that have transformed the communications market during the last decade. It found that 91% of people in the UK now own a mobile phone, up from 36% in 2000. One in seven households are now mobile-only, as the penetration of landlines dropped from 93% in 2000 to 81% in 2011

Consistent with the growth of mobiles and smartphones, the number of mobile voice minutes has grown by 250% over the past decade (from 35 billion in 2000, to 125 billion in 2011), and the number of text messages sent has increased by an enormous 2000% (from 7 billion in 2000, to 129 billion per year).

The recent adoption of smartphones has been accompanied by an increase in the volume of mobile data transferred over the UK’s mobile networks. This increased forty-fold between 2007 and 2010.

Also, new technologies are being adopted now at a fast pace; while it took 15 years for half of the UK population to get a mobile phone and 14 years to get multi-channel TV, newer technologies such as online catch up TV and social networking websites reached this landmark in just four years.

Despite this growth in communications services and the increasing time we spend using them, average monthly household spend has increased by just 12.8% in real terms, to £93.10 (£83.01 in 2000) and has fallen consistently year on year since 2005 (£106.50).

TV has proven to be the most resilient media over the decade. Despite increasing use of the internet and an explosion in the range of devices available to access media and communications, TV remains the nation’s most missed media, and viewing actually increased between 2000 and 2010, with viewers currently watching just over four hours a day, up by approximately 18 minutes over ten years.

The majority of homes are now connected to the internet (25% in 2000, 76% in 2011, and the majority have also adopted multi-channel TV (36% in 2000, 93% in 2010). Altogether, 60% of households now own an HD-Ready TV, although just over half of these claim to receive HDTV channels (33%).

Despite this period of significant growth, the digital revolution continues to pass some people by. While nine out of ten adults (90%) aged 35-44 have the internet at home, this falls to just a quarter (26%) of over 75s.

And while virtually all (99%) 25-34s own a mobile phone, only half (51%) of over 75s own a mobile, with this age group more likely to have a landline (94%) than 16-24s (67%).

When asked what media would be missed the most, people aged over 75 are also far more likely to miss their TVs the most (65%), followed by radio (15%) and newspapers and magazines (8%). The picture is very different for young adults aged 16-24 who would most miss their mobile phone (28%), followed by the internet (26%) and TV (23%).

However, there is evidence that older age groups are catching up in the adoption of technology. For the first time, over half (55%) of those aged 65-74 have access to the internet at home while over three quarters (77%) now have a mobile.

By May 2011, around 500,000 households had adopted superfast broadband – with a headline speed of 30Mbps or higher – a fivefold increase from 2010. Altogether, 57% of households are now passed by superfast broadband, either through Virgin Media’s cable service or BT’s Infinity product.

Ofcom’s director of research, James Thickett, said: “Ofcom’s 2011 Communications Market Report shows the influence that communications technology now has on our daily lives, and on the way we behave and communicate with each other.

“Our research into the use of smartphones, in particular, reveals how quickly people become reliant on new technology, to the point of feeling ‘addicted’.”

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