Research: UK consumers “early adopters”

UK consumers are some of the earliest adopters of new communications technologies, according to research from UK regulator Ofcom. They are among the best connected for broadband, mobile and digital TV and the UK has seen the fastest growth in smartphone take-up. UK consumers are also enjoying lower prices for communications services than many consumers across the world. UK households have comparatively high levels of take-up of communications services, with among the highest take-up of landlines, fixed broadband connections, mobile connections and digital TV at the end of 2009.

Ofcom’s fifth International Communications Market report into the global communications market looked at take-up, availability and use of broadband, landlines, mobiles, TV and radio in 17 countries.

The UK and Spain lead the way with digital TV take-up at 91 per cent, as digital switchover is implemented across the globe. While UK consumers are ahead of the rest of the world in take-up of HD ready TV sets (59 per cent of UK households, ahead of the US with 57 per cent), take-up of HDTV services is lower in the UK than in other countries, where take-up tends to be linked to the amount of HDTV channels available.

In the USA, 44 per cent of households have HDTV services with access to 404 HD channels, followed by Japan (43 per cent of households and 130 channels), France (42 per cent and 55 channels) and then the UK (13 per cent and 50 channels).

Overall, UK TV viewers watched more TV than the average 207 minutes per day, watching 225 minutes, unchanged from 2008. US TV viewers watched more TV than in any other country with 280 minutes per day, followed by Polish TV viewers with 240 minutes and Italians with 238 minutes.

The UK had the second highest number of homes with pay-TV DVRs (such as Sky+ and V+) at the end of 2009 with 7.8 million devices, up by 40 per cent on 2008. The USA had the highest number of homes with DVR subscriptions with 34.7 million at the end of 2009, up by more than a quarter (26 per cent) year on year.

Ofcom’s consumer research also found that the UK has more consumers watching TV on the Internet with just under a quarter (24 per cent) of consumers claiming to do this every week. This rose to 45 per cent when asked whether they had ever accessed TV content on the Internet. People in the USA were the second most likely to watch TV on the Internet, with a fifth (22 per cent) using the Internet to watch TV on a weekly basis.

Overall, prices for communications services in the UK compare favourably to those in the comparator countries – France, Italy, Germany, Spain, USA. In all of the European countries analysed, consumers can make significant savings by purchasing ‘double-play’ or ‘triple-play’ services rather than subscribing to the lowest price standalone services. The UK is cheaper for four out of the five baskets (landline phone, mobile phone, broadband) Ofcom compared, but once pay-TV is also included, pricing in the UK is comparatively more expensive.

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