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UK consumers are a nation of online shoppers

Couple shopping onlineMore consumers in the UK use the internet for shopping than other major countries, a new Ofcom report reveals.

They also watch more TV online, use their mobiles more to go online and play more games on their phones.

The report also reveals that the UK customers are paying lower prices for their communications than many consumers across the world.

Ofcom’s sixth 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.

It shows that despite the economic downturn, global communications revenues grew by 3.4 per cent in 2010 compared with 2009, mainly driven by strong growth in the BRIC countries (Brazil, India, Russia and China).

A nation of online shoppers

The report found that eight in ten UK internet users (79 per cent) said they had ordered goods or services online in 2010, higher than any other European country, with just 27 per cent of consumers in Italy claiming to have done so.

UK internet users were also more likely to visit retail websites online than other countries, with nine in ten (89 per cent) claiming to do so in 2011.

As well as more UK consumers shopping online, they also spent more time on retail sites – an average of 84 minutes in January 2011, compared with around 20 minutes for consumers in Poland and Italy.

Smartphone take-up driving mobile internet access

Iphone in handSmartphone ownership nearly doubled in the UK between February 2010 and August 2011 (from 24 per cent to 46 per cent) and take-up was higher in the UK than among the other European countries surveyed (France: 35 per cent, Germany: 32 per cent, Italy: 40 per cent and Spain: 45 per cent).

The number of people using their mobiles to go online was also higher in the UK with nearly half (46 per cent) of UK internet users using their phones to go online in October 2011. This was higher than in all the other countries surveyed.

UK consumers were also more likely to play games on their phone (34 per cent compared with 16 per cent in France).

A quarter (25 per cent) of UK mobile users accessed news content on their mobiles, significantly higher than in other European countries. This could be partly due to higher smartphone take-up and UK newspaper websites having mobile specific websites.

They were less likely, however, to use the internet to make phone calls than in other countries. Just under a fifth (19 per cent) of UK broadband subscribers used services such as Skype to make internet phone calls, compared with 28 per cent in Italy and 26 per cent in France.

Social networking in wide use around the world

Social networking is a global phenomenon, with over three quarters of consumers in the markets we surveyed saying that they have visited a social networking site, with the majority saying they visit them on a daily basis. This is much higher among 18-24 year olds, with eight in ten (83 per cent) visiting on a daily basis.

Faceboook icon on and iPad screenSocial networking sites are most popular in Italy, with 91 per cent ever having visited and a quarter visiting over five times a day (24 per cent), while in the UK eight out of ten (79 per cent) have ever visited with one in five visiting over five times a day

UK consumers are more likely to access social networking sites on a mobile phone than other countries, with 43 per cent of those with social networking site profiles saying they do so compared to just 30 per cent in the US.

However UK social networkers say they have fewer friends online (168) than Americans (198) or Italians (216) – but more than the French (108) or Germans (137).

Consumers are also using social networking sites for breaking news, with one third (35 per cent) of UK consumers saying they do this and nearly half of French (45 per cent) and Italians (47 per cent) agreeing. Breaking news is more popular among 18-24 year olds in all countries.

Consumers getting a good deal in the UK

Ofcom research into the prices consumers pay for their communications services has found that prices in the UK compare favourably to those available in other countries.

The analysis examined the prices of a typical ‘basket’ of communications services (fixed-line phone, mobile phone, broadband and pay TV) for five household types. It compared the prices available to consumers in the UK (in July 2011) with those in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US.

TV viewing extends online

Tv remoteThe UK’s love of TV continues, with over a quarter (27 per cent) of UK internet users saying they watched TV online every week, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2010, and higher than any of the other countries surveyed.

The popularity of a wide variety of free-to-view catch-up TV services such as BBC iPlayer has helped to drive online TV viewing in the UK.

The UK also saw the largest growth in digital video recorder (DVR) take-up, with over a third (36 per cent) of homes now owning a DVR (a 4 percentage point increase on 2009). Among the six countries surveyed, the UK is second only to the US, where 41 per cent of households own a DVR.

Overall, TV viewing in the UK increased by 7.6 per cent in 2010 compared with 2009, with the average person watching just over 4 hours of TV per day (242 minutes). This was the highest increase year-on-year among the countries surveyed, and 31 minutes more than the average of 211 minutes per person.

Overall, the UK offered the lowest prices for all five baskets based on buying services individually and four of the five baskets when including multi-service ‘bundles’.

Overall, the price of mobile phone services in the UK were 36 per cent lower than in the next least expensive country (France) and were 10 per cent lower than a year previously.

However, prices for low-use mobile phone services (such as pay as you go) in the UK increased between July 2010 and July 2011 (as they did in France, Germany and Italy). Fixed-line voice prices in the UK were also lower than in all other countries.

Looking at the prices for a typical family ‘basket’ of communications services consisting of a fixed-line phone with high use, four mobile phones with varying use, a fixed broadband connection and a basic pay TV subscription, the lowest price available to consumers in the UK was £114, second only to France (£79). Prices for this basket in the UK increased by 10 per cent between 2010 and 2011, largely due to increases in the prices of the low-use mobile phone services.

Superfast broadband rapidly becoming available

Overall availability of high-speed fixed-line broadband networks in the UK compares favourably to other European countries. By June 2011, 59 per cent of households had access to Virgin Media or BT’s superfast services. However, just 4 per cent of UK households subscribed to superfast services in June 2011, compared with 40 per cent in Japan and 10 per cent in the US, although higher than in Germany (3 per cent), Italy (1.5 per cent) and Spain (2.2 per cent).

New spectrum that will be used for superfast mobile broadband networks using LTE technology has been auctioned in a number of countries. Some countries, such as Sweden, have already launched networks, with headline speeds of up to 100Mbit/s. Services in the UK are expected to launch in 2013 following the 4G spectrum auction in the second half of 2012.

Internet use drives high online advertising spend

More and more advertisers are flocking to the internet across the globe, with the UK leading on the total proportion of advertising spent on the internet (29 per cent) – almost double the level for global internet advertising (15 per cent). UK online advertising spend in 2010 was almost the same as TV advertising (30 per cent), increasing by 16 per cent to reach £4.1bn.

Increased global communications revenues

Communications revenues increased across the board in the 17 countries covered in the report compared with 2009:

- Total retail telecoms revenues generated £594bn in 2010, 1.9 per cent higher than in 2009;

- Total radio revenues reached £25bn in 2010, up by 5 per cent from 2009; and

- TV revenues increased by 7.7 per cent year on year from £222bn to £239bn.

Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said:

“Across the globe people are embracing e-commerce and social media with enthusiasm. Our research shows that the UK communications market is performing well with prices, the range of services and innovation standing up well against international benchmarks.

“There are also issues which we will monitor carefully, such as the future roll-out 4G mobile services. We are pressing ahead with plans to release this valuable spectrum at the end of next year which will enable new mobile services for consumers.”

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