UK consumers are early adopters
By Robert Briel
Published: December 2, 2010 08.46 Europe/London

UK consumers are some of the earliest adopters of new communications technologies, at least according to new Ofcom research.

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

UK households are among the best connected

Take-up of communications services across the world is continuing at a rapid pace, despite the global recession. Ofcom’s consumer research reveals that across the six countries it surveyed, expenditure on communications services remains resilient with people less likely to cut down on communications services, and in particular broadband (6-7%), than they are on other areas such as nights out (39-56%) or holidays (29-51%).

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.

The UK and Spain lead the way with digital TV take-up at 91%, 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% of UK households, ahead of the US with 57%), 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 US, 44% of households have HDTV services with access to 404 HD channels, followed by Japan (43% of households and 130 channels), France (42% and 55 channels) and then the UK (13% and 50 channels).

Overall, UK TV viewers watched more TV than the average 207 minutes per day, viewing 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 PVRs (such as Sky+ and V+) at the end of 2009 with 7.8 million devices, up by 40% on 2008. The UA had the highest number of homes with PVR subscriptions with 34.7 million at the end of 2009, up by more than a quarter (26%) 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%) of consumers claiming to do this every week. This rose to 45% when asked whether they had ever accessed TV content on the internet. People in the US were the second most likely to watch TV on the internet, with a fifth (22%) using the internet to watch TV on a weekly basis.

But UK behind on local TV services

The availability of local and regional TV services varies widely across the world and apart from Ireland (with six), the UK, with nine, has the fewest amount of local and regional TV services available compared to other European countries and the US. By comparison, Italy has an estimated 631 and the US has 4,758 local terrestrial TV services. The UK Government has identified this area as a development priority.

Overall, prices for communications services in the UK compare favourably to those in the comparator countries – France, Italy, Germany, Spain, US. 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.