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Homes without a fixed line phone Layout image
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Contents

Introduction

Summary findings

Who are consumers without a fixed phone?

Why do they not have a fixed phone?

What is the impact?

What alternatives do they use?

How satisfactory are these alternatives?

How likely are they to get a fixed phone in future?

Are they aware of low usage schemes?

Appendix 1
Northern Ireland results

Appendix 2
Geographic spread

Introduction

Currently, an average 5% of the UK population live in homes that do not have a fixed line phone. Oftel is interested in these homes in relation to the Universal Service obligation – to ensure that all consumers have access to telecoms services that are essential to social and economic inclusion, upon reasonable request, in an appropriate fashion, and at an affordable price. The purpose of this research is to assist in the provision of information for Oftel’s review of Universal Service, a statement on which will be published in late Spring 2000.

Research initially conducted for Oftel during September 1999 by Ipsos-RSL, examined the demographic characteristics of these consumers who do not have a fixed line phone at home. A summary of these results can be found at http://www.oftel.gov.uk/cmu/research/unphoned.htm.

Objectives

This more recent study, conducted by Ipsos-RSL (GB), Ulster Marketing Surveys (Northern Ireland) and BMRB International during March 2000, examined these consumers in more detail, focusing on their circumstances and reasons for not having a fixed line phone. The specific questions addressed include:

  • Who are these consumers?
  • Why do they not have a fixed line phone?
  • What do they use instead, why, and how satisfactory is this?
  • Are they aware of low usage schemes such as Light User Scheme, and In Contact?
  • How helpful do they consider these schemes to be?
  • Would they prefer to have a fixed line phone, and what would be needed to get them onto the phone at home?

The proportion of consumers in homes without a fixed line phone varies by geographic region across the UK. This report examines the ‘unphoned’ population as a whole for Great Britain, with a separate appendix (1) on Northern Ireland, where their incidence is slightly greater at around 11%.

Survey methodology

Great Britain survey
Research agency: Ipsos-RSL
Methodology: Face to face, in home, omnibus
Sample: 502 (unweighted), results are based on weighted data. 7% households had member(s) with disability that affects use of the phone, about 14% sample, rural areas.

A shorter questionnaire was conducted in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland survey
Research agency: Ulster Marketing Surveys
Methodology: Face to face, in home, omnibus
Sample: 123
Timescales: February 20th to March 2nd 2000

 

Qualitative research

20 face to face depth interviews were conducted across GB by BMRB International, to supplement the quantitative findings, and to provide a more detailed understanding of consumers’ reasons and circumstances for not having a fixed phone. These interviews were conducted during March 2000 amongst the following consumers:

  • 4 using mobile
  • 4 in rural / remote areas
  • 4 previously had fixed line but now disconnected
  • 4 not previously had fixed line
  • 4 with disabilities

The results from these interviews have been incorporated in this report.

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1. Summary – Homes without a fixed line phone

1.1 The results indicate some clear patterns amongst consumers without a fixed line phone at home, and are broadly consistent with Oftel’s previous research in September 1999 and that of the Office of National Statistics 1997/98 Family Expenditure Survey.

Who are the consumers with a fixed phone?

1.2 Overall, the majority of consumers living in homes without a fixed line phone can be characterised by their low annual incomes, non-skilled workers or not working, mostly living in rented accommodation, predominantly council owned. However, about 1 in 10 are student groups, and a similar proportion are higher income workers.

1.3 They tend on the whole to have less disposable income and are therefore less likely to have other household items such as cars and videos. They are however, as likely to have a mobile phone, as those with fixed phones. Almost 3 in 5 of those without a fixed phone claim to have a mobile.

Why do they not have a fixed line phone?

1.4 Preference for mobiles is the main reason for not having fixed line phone, followed by cost issues. These were also the main reasons for not getting a fixed phone in the near future. Cost was particularly an issue for those with outstanding debts, both to their previous telecoms supplier and more generally.

1.5 Just over 1 in 10 claim to make so few, if any calls, that they have no need for a fixed line. Tenure was also a consideration for those in temporary accommodation who felt that it was not appropriate to install a fixed phone due to the transient nature of their living arrangements. Moving house was the main reason behind intentions to get a fixed line in the near future.

What do they use instead?

1.6 Over half use mobiles (predominantly prepay packages) as their main alternative, while the majority of the remainder use payphones. Mobiles were preferred for their flexibility, and easier means of controlling costs. Payphones were considered a good way of controlling costs, but were less satisfactory in terms of their availability, location, and accessibility. Consumers using payphones were more likely to report feeling socially excluded and do not make as many calls as they would like to.

1.7 The majority of consumers were satisfied with their alternative method, particularly those using mobiles. Only a quarter would prefer to use a fixed line to their current method, and whilst part of this reasoning may be due to cost issues, there would appear to be some consumers who genuinely have no need or desire to use a fixed line phone. Only about half of consumers say they intend to get a fixed phone in the future.

What are the telcos doing to help?

1.8 Those consumers who previously had a fixed phone said they received little assistance from their telco in paying their bill, controlling their costs, and remaining on the phone. Awareness of low usage schemes such as Light User Scheme and In Contact/Plus was at best 1 in 5. Consumers on the whole, did not consider these schemes to be very helpful in assisting them get a fixed line phone. When asked what the telcos would need to do 1 in 5 claimed that they were happy as they were and nothing would get them onto the phone at home, whilst the remainder focused on cheaper charges.

1.9 In summary, the population without a fixed line phone can be broadly grouped as follows:

The ‘don’t wants’

These are predominantly consumers who use mobiles as their main alternative to a fixed line (5/6 in 10). They tend to be younger (up to 34), in the slightly higher social grades, and more likely to be working. They prefer to use mobiles rather than fixed phones because of the flexibility they offer. Cost is less of an issue, and they spend about 20 per month on their mobile bill. They don’t tend to feel disadvantaged as their mobile enables them to keep in touch at all times. They are most likely to be completely satisfied with their current telecoms arrangements and they are less likely to want a fixed line in the future.

The ‘can’t affords’

These are predominantly consumers who use payphones as their main alternative to a fixed line (about 2 in 10). They tend to be more middle aged, of E social grade, not working, and living in smaller households. They are more likely to have outstanding debts, both to their previous telecoms suppliers, and elsewhere. They do not make as many calls as they would like to and tend to feel more vulnerable and socially disadvantaged, finding it more difficult to keep in touch with this method. Cost is the main issue, they spend on average less than 12 per month on calls. Whilst they would prefer a fixed line phone, their current financial situation is a barrier to achieving this, certainly in the short term.

The ‘don’t needs’ (at least 1 in 10)

These are predominantly older consumers (55+), slightly higher social grades and larger annual incomes. Their reason for not having a fixed phone is that they rarely (if ever) make calls, and as a result they don’t tend to use any alternative method either. Cost is not really the issue, and they are less likely to have any outstanding debts, or experience problems paying their households bills. They are less likely to see themselves getting a fixed phone in the future - they don’t think they have any need for it and many of the people they would want to call are not on the phone either. Those who do make the very occasional call are more likely to use their friends’, family, or neighbours’ phones.

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2. Who are the consumers without a fixed line phone?

  • Characterised by low annual incomes/state pensions, not working, living in predominantly council rented accommodation
  • 3 in 5 own a mobile instead (similar level to those with a fixed line phone)

2.1 The demographic profiles of consumers with and without a fixed line phone are shown charts 1a to 1h.

2.2 Consumers without a fixed line phone at home tend to be younger than average, over half are under the age of 34. Although lower than their average proportion in the population - about 1 in 5 of the ‘unphoned’ are over the age of 55 and likely to be retired.

2.3 They are more likely to be ‘not working’, either unemployed, students or retired. Almost 2 in 5 were working either full or part time however, but tended to be on very low incomes, considerably lower than average. 3 in 4 were on annual incomes of less than 12,000.

2.4 They are considerably more likely than those with a fixed line phone, to be in the lower social grades, D and E. (This includes retired people on state rather than private pensions, non-skilled workers and the unemployed).

2.5 As a result, they have little disposable income and are considerably less likely than those with a phone to own many durables, such as videos, satellite or cable TV taken for granted in many UK households. Only 3 in 10 owned a car, compared with 7 in 10 of those with a phone. They were however as likely to own a mobile phone, as those with a fixed line phone. Over half of both groups claimed to own a mobile.

2.6 There are some geographic differences and there was a lower than average incidence of the population in homes without a fixed line phone in London and the south. Northern Ireland was highest with an estimated 11% population in homes without a fixed line phone.

2.7 Other distinguishing features of consumers without a fixed line phone include their terminal education age* – they were slightly more likely to have left education at a younger age than those with a fixed line phone. They are considerably more likely to live in rented accommodation, predominantly council owned. Fewer than 1 in 5 own their property. They tend to generally live in the lower Acorn* housing classification areas, predominantly D, E and F, which include the more downmarket and less wealthy areas of housing.

2.8 Consumers without a fixed line phone tend to be slightly heavier TV viewers* than those with. And they are slightly less likely to read a daily paper, and those who do tend to read the tabloid press*.

* results taken from September 1999 survey

2.9 Both projects (September 1999, and March 2000) found that the main groups of consumers without a fixed line phone are:

  1. young, unemployed, low income council residents, some possibly single parent families
  2. about 1 in 10 are students
  3. older, unemployed/low income or retired consumers on state rather than private pensions, again primarily living in rented accommodation
  4. about 1 in 10 have fairly high income of more than 17,500

2.10 The majority are characterised by very low annual incomes, and are predominantly unemployed or non-skilled workers, living in small households of 1 or 2 people, in council or other rented accommodation.

2.11 The research on the whole supports the results of the 1997/98 Family Expenditure Survey carried out the Office of National Statistics. The only difference was mobile phone ownership, which the FES reported as being considerably below average amongst households without a fixed phone. This inconsistency is most likely a result of the different time periods in which the two surveys were conducted. The recent growth in the mobile market, particularly in pre-pay phones, may account for these differences.

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3. Why do some consumers not have a fixed line phone at home?

  • Prefer using mobiles instead – more flexible and convenient to obtain and use, easier to control spend
  • Cost issues – couldn’t afford bills and/or disconnected.
  • Lack of usage – don’t make sufficient calls to need a fixed line phone

3.1 The single greatest reason for not having a fixed line phone, was ‘got a mobile instead’ (38%). The main reasons for this are detailed in section 4.

"I’m contactable whenever I want to be contactable"

3.2 The second most mentioned reason for not having a fixed line phone related to cost, and the inability to afford the bills (24%). This was slightly higher amongst consumers who previously had a fixed line phone, and therefore have previous experience in the paying these bills. Other specific cost related reasons for not having a fixed line phone included:

  • disconnection for non-payment (6%)
  • ongoing costs including calls and rental (6%)
  • connection and installation costs (5%)

"I had [the phone] disconnected because with the boys getting older they’re on the phone to their friends all the time"

"I think they wanted quite an amount to put a phone on … the initial cost was expensive and I thought no, I’m not, I just felt that it was over the top"

This mobile user living in a rural area, explained that he saw no value in paying 100 to be connected to fixed phone when he could subscribe to a mobile phone for a lower initial outlay.

3.3 Just over 1 in 10 consumers (13%) said they did not make sufficient calls (if any) to need a fixed line phone at home. These were predominantly elderly consumers, widowed/divorced, and living in small households (either alone or with one other person). They tended to be higher social grades, some of whom were working part-time, and living more-so in London than elsewhere. Other consumers had become used to living without a fixed line phone, and had not bothered to install a line, even though they could now afford one.

"In small areas like this, you can more or less keep in touch with folks without the phone"

"I didn’t use the phone, I mean I was abroad most of the time, not here hardly ever"

3.4 Tenure was also a consideration for some consumers, who felt that due to the transient nature of their living arrangements, it was not appropriate to install a fixed line phone.

      "I had the mobile after I moved from my house, and then I was staying with friends and then I went abroad and travelled for a while"

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.5 The main reason given by elderly consumers (65+) for not having a fixed line phone was lack of use – they said they didn’t make sufficient, if any calls. They were twice as likely than average to give this reason. Cost was also a consideration, both initial installation/connection costs and ongoing call charges. Younger consumers (15-34) were more likely than average to quote mobile usage as their main reason for not having a fixed phone.

3.6 The very low income groups (less than 6,500), and the E social grades, were most likely to cite cost reasons as their main reasons for not having a fixed phone.

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Previous history of consumers without a fixed line phone

  • Average time without a fixed phone is about 12 months
  • Less than half previously had fixed phone at current address. Of those who did:
  • Little assistance from telcos to remain on phone
  • 1 in 3 have outstanding debts to telco

How long have these consumers been without a fixed line phone?

3.7 Less than half (42%) of consumers without a fixed line phone previously had a fixed line at their current address. This was slightly higher amongst the middle age groups (25-54) and amongst larger households of more than 5.

3.8 The majority of previously fixed line customers had been with BT (84%). This was higher amongst older consumers, and the larger income groups. The remainder were with one of the cable operators.

3.9 Customers had been with their chosen company for 18 months on average, although this was slightly shorter for those with cable suppliers. On average these consumers have been without a fixed line service for almost a year, however 2 in 5 have been disconnected within the last 6 months.

3.10* Elderly consumers, particularly those over the age of 65, tend to have been without a fixed line phone for a considerably longer period, but had been with their previous supplier for a longer period of time. Younger consumers, and the DE low income groups tended to have been with their previous supplier for the shortest period, and the younger groups were more likely to have been disconnected more recently.

*Based on relatively small sample sizes

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 3.11 Only 1 in 3 customers claimed to owe outstanding payments for their previous fixed line service, although the actual instance of this might be higher as some respondents might be reluctant to admit their debts. Just over 1 in 10 (13%) said that they were unlikely to be able to clear these outstanding payments in the short term. Consumers with mobile phones were more likely to be in this latter position.

Why are some consumers no longer able to afford a fixed line phone?

3.12 Some consumers had requested disconnection following a succession of bills that they were finding increasingly difficult to pay and control, while others had been disconnected, not necessarily through choice, for non-payment. The inability to control and pay bills, following years of previously having a fixed line, was usually due to a change in financial circumstances resulting from life changes such as divorce/separation, retirement or unemployment. Few consumers, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their disconnection, said they had received any assistance from their telco to assist them control their spend, meet payments and generally keep their fixed line phone. Awareness and uptake of low usage schemes that might be appropriate for these consumers, is examined in a subsequent section.

"We asked if them if we could have incoming calls only and they said ‘You are going to still have to pay it off, otherwise you’ll be disconnected’. So we just said ‘Right, fine, disconnect us then’, and we got annoyed and we just unplugged the phone anyway. So we didn’t have either coming in or out"

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What is the impact of not having a fixed line phone?

  • 2 in 5 don’t make as many calls as would like to
  • Non-mobile users had some difficulties keeping in touch, and felt less secure

3.13 There were some clear disadvantages to not having a fixed line phone for some consumers, primarily those not using mobiles. Isolation in times of emergency, and feelings of insecurity and vulnerability were mentioned particularly by females, disabled consumers, and those living alone.

"Recently our neighbour got arrested … and we weren’t allowed to leave our flat, we were told to stay in … we should have had a phone, so if anything like happens you know"

3.14 Some consumers said it affected both their social life and contact with friends and family, and their general everyday arrangements such as contacting schools, banks, utilities etc. They felt that all of these contacts were more difficult than if they had access to a fixed line phone at home.

"There have been a few things where someone has phone me up next morning at work and said ‘oh I wish I had been able to contact you list night’"

3.15 2 in 5 consumers said they don’t make as many calls as they would like to, particularly those using payphones, and the lowest income groups. Cost of calls from payphones and some mobiles were considered high in comparison to calls from fixed lines, however, this was overshadowed by the ability to monitor and control costs.

3.16 Mobile customers were considerably more satisfied with this method of calling, and felt that the only disadvantages to having a mobile rather than fixed line were coverage issues in certain areas, and the cost of some calls such as international.

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4. What alternative methods do consumers use for making calls?

- 3 in 5 use mobiles, predominantly prepay packages, average spend 19 per month

- 1 in 3 use payphones, average spend less than 12 per month

- Over 1 in 10 consumers (13%) claimed they do not use any alternative method for making calls as they do not make any calls.

4.1 Mobiles and payphones were the primary alternatives used. Fewer than 1 in 20 consumers used any other method as their main means for making and receiving calls. These included phone at friends/family/neighbour’s home (3%); phone at work (1%); and pagers/email/calling shops (less than 1% in total).

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4.2 Elderly consumers (65+) were most likely to say they did not use any alternative, because they didn’t make any calls (45% vs 13% average). Of those who did use an alternative, friends’ and family members’ phones were considerably more popular than average (11% vs 3% average). Younger consumers (15-34) were considerably more likely to use mobiles (68% vs 55% average).

4.3 The E social grades and lowest income group were more likely than average to use payphones and less likely to use mobiles.

4.4 Chart 4b provides a summary profile of consumers using mobile as their main alternative, compared to those using other alternatives (predominantly payphones), and those who do not use any alternative.

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Who is using mobiles, and why?

4.5 Mobile was the primary alternative means of making and receiving calls, used by 3 in 5 consumers without a fixed line phone, and by 55% as the method they used most often. Over 4 in 5 mobile users said that they like to be in touch at all times.

4.6 The main reason for mobile usage (mentioned by 50% of users) was the convenience and flexibility they offer, allowing consumers to make and receive calls from a range of locations as the situation required, rather than being tied to one location.

      "Because I don’t have to worry about the children when they’re at school, because I’ll get a phone call wherever I am"

4.7 Other reasons for using a mobile rather than a fixed line included:

  • the ability to monitor and control spend using prepaid vouchers
  • the convenience of obtaining and using a mobile, particularly the prepay variety, where no contract or pre-qualification is required, and there was no bill to remember to pay.
  • the pricing structure, in particular the low, or nill, rental charge on some packages; the free ‘minutes’ per month; and the low charges for text messaging. Almost 1 in 5 said it was cheaper for them than a fixed line phone.

4.8 Mobile usage was highest amongst younger consumers (15-34), and those in large households of more than five. Mobile usage was considerably lower than average amongst consumers who were not working. This includes the elderly, particularly those over the age of 65 (10%). There was little difference in usage by annual income or social grade, apart from the E grades and those under 6,500 (who are generally one in the same, and are again less likely to be working) who were less likely to use a mobile, and preferred payphones. Mobile usage was lowest in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What type of mobiles are these consumers using?

4.9 The overwhelming preference was for prepay packages, used by 77% of consumers who used a mobile as their primary means of making calls. Monthly subscription packages and all-in-one packages were used by 15% (primarily those on higher incomes) and 4% respectively.

4.10 About half of mobile users have started using their mobile within the last year. Consumers who have never had a fixed line phone were only slightly more likely to have had their mobiles for longer than those who previously had a fixed line.

4.11 The majority of mobile users (77%) claimed to make/receive a roughly equal number of incoming and outgoing calls. Fewer than 1 in 5 consumers said they only really used their mobile for receiving calls, although this was slightly higher amongst the very elderly.

How much are mobile users spending?

4.12 The average monthly spend on mobile usage was about 19, which is largely consistent with the average monthly fixed line bill. This could imply one of two things – either that cost is not really an issue for these consumers and they actually prefer the flexibility of mobiles, or, that they perceive the monthly cost of a fixed line to be higher than it actually is, and do not realise that for a similar amount they could be using a fixed line. Only 1 in 20 mobile users did not know how much they spent each month.

4.13 Average spend increased in line with annual income, ranging from a monthly average of 17 amongst the lowest income groups, to 35 amongst those with incomes of more than 25,000.

4.14 Monthly spends tended to be higher than 20 amongst those on monthly subscription and all in one packages, and slightly lower amongst the prepay package users at 17.

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 Who is using payphones, and why?

4.15 Payphones were the second most popular method, used by 38% of consumers overall, and by 19% as their main method for making calls. Payment by cash was considerably more popular than buying phonecards. Payphone usage was most popular amongst those least likely to use mobiles – the low income, E grade consumers who were not working. It is worth noting that it was primarily the younger members of these groups who used payphones, rather than the elderly, who were less likely to make any calls, and when they did, preferred to use fixed line phones at the homes of friends, family or neighbours.

4.16 Cost was the main reason for using a payphone, both inability to afford a fixed line phone, and the ability to monitor and limit spend using a payphone. The average weekly spend less than 3, with fewer than 1 in 20 payphone users spending any more than this. 1 in 6 of those using payphones said they chose to do so because it was convenient for them and was located very near to their home.

Reasons for not using payphones

4.17 The main reasons for not using payphones, included:

  • preference for mobiles (49%)
  • cost of calls (15%)
  • inconvenience of needing change/cards (14%).

4.18 In addition to these, there was some concern and problems with using payphones, both amongst those who chose to use them and those who did not. These included:

  • distance to the nearest payphone (11%)
  • actual facilities themselves – ‘unpleasant/cold’ (6%), ‘lack of privacy’ (5%), ‘payphone not working’ (3%)
  • general safety issues related to the location of the payphone (5%), particularly in areas known for crime or drug use.

"The only inconvenience is you’ve got hardened drug dealers round here"

4.19 Additionally, disabled consumers, and those with small children reported difficulties in using payphones, and their unsuitability for accommodating wheelchairs and pushchairs.

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How satisfactory are the alternatives to a fixed line phone?

  • Majority completely satisfied with alternative method – mobiles more than payphones
  • Almost 2 in 3 say they don’t need a fixed line phone
  • Only a quarter would prefer to use a fixed line phone rather than their current method

4.20 7 in 10 of those without a fixed line phone claimed to be completely satisfied with their alternative method for making and receiving calls. Satisfaction levels were highest amongst those using mobiles, and slightly lower than average amongst payphone users. Some of the reasons for this have already been reflected in the previous section, which discussed the disadvantages and advantages of these methods.

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 4.21 Almost 2 in 3 (63%) said they don’t need a fixed line phone. Only a quarter (27%) said they would prefer to use a fixed line rather than their current method. These were mainly payphone users, as those using mobiles were considerably more satisfied (80%) and were less likely to prefer a fixed line (19%). Reasons for preferring a fixed phone included more convenient/always available, and more comfortable/safer calling from home amongst those currently using payphones, while mobile users were more likely to cite cheaper call costs.

"Sometimes they’re not working, I get very impatient with public call boxes and they’re very dirty sometimes, people do all manner of things in them so I would much rather have my phone"

4.22 There was no difference in satisfaction between those who previously had a fixed line phone and those who did not. This is perhaps surprising - if fixed line phones are the preferred method for calling it might be expected that that those who previously used this method, might be less satisfied with their current alternative, than those who have made less use of fixed lines.

4.23 Appendix 2 shows the regional variations in phone usage and satisfaction with fixed line alternatives. Overall, it would appear that about 1% of consumers are dissatisfied with having to use an alternative to a fixed line phone. This is higher in Scotland and Wales however, at about 3%, and to a lesser extent East Anglia at just over 2%. One likely explanation could be the relative rurality of these areas, where payphones might be more dispersed, and mobile coverage may be more erratic in parts.

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5. How likely are these consumers to get a fixed line phone in the future?

- Almost half say they’re never likely to get fixed line

  • no need/using mobile instead
  • cost issues

- Of those planning to get a fixed line, the average estimate is about six months

5.1 Almost half (45%) of consumers currently without a fixed line phone said they’re never likely to get one. This was highest amongst the elderly and consumers who did not previously have a fixed line at their current address. Of the remainder, the average estimated time before getting a fixed phone was about 6 months, although this was slightly longer for those with very low income (less than 6,500) and not working.

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What are the reasons for not getting a fixed line phone?

5.2 The main reason for not getting a fixed line in the near future is use of mobile instead (34%). Other reasons include no need (32%) which may also include use of mobiles; and cost related issues, such as cost of connection/installation (26%) and inability to control ongoing costs (20%). Only 1 in 20 mentioned debts, both to their previous telco and more generally, as the reason for not getting a fixed line in the near future.

  • Elderly consumers were most likely to claim they had no need of a fixed line
  • Young consumers and large households were more likely to cite mobile usage
  • Those on low incomes and the E social grades were more concerned about cost

What are the reasons enabling some to get a fixed line phone in the near future?

5.3 Moving home was the main reason for ability to get a fixed line phone in the near future (25%). [NB The numbers in each demographic group are too small to provide useful information on this question, however, this is likely to be people in temporary accommodation, probably rented from the council].

Other reasons included ‘will have paid off previous telco debts’ (22%), or ‘will be getting a larger income’ (11%).

General attitudes to phone ownership

5.4 Half of consumers thought that a telephone at home was a luxury, while 2 in 5 said they thought it important, but couldn’t afford it at the moment. About 2 in 3 said that the upfront and ongoing costs were too much. Difficulty paying household bills and general debts were also contributing to some consumers’ decisions to not have a fixed line phone.

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Are consumers aware of the low usage schemes available for fixed line service?

  • Awareness of schemes is low - at best, 1 in 5
  • It would appear that consumers are not being offered low usage schemes to assist them in keeping a fixed line phone
  • Consumers did not consider schemes particularly helpful in getting them onto the phone
  • 1 in 5 said the telcos could do nothing to get them onto a fixed line phone, the remaining 4 in 5 all focused on cheaper costs of all aspects of service.

5.5 Awareness of telecoms service options, including low usage schemes, and different payment options was low, and at best, had been heard of by 1 in 5 consumers. Awareness was slightly higher amongst those who had previously had a fixed line phone although not significantly, suggesting they were not made aware of these options when the previously had a fixed service, or have since forgotten. The very low income groups were slightly more likely to have heard of In contact and In contact plus.

5.6 There were few regional differences in awareness levels, which may be partly due to the relatively small sample sizes in each of the 12 geographic areas. If anything, awareness was highest in London and the south.

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Are customers being offered these schemes?

5.7 At best 1 in 10 consumers who previously had a fixed phone at home, said they had been offered any of the low usage schemes – LUS, In contact, In contact plus. This confirms the previous point that few claimed to have received any assistance from their telco to assist them control their spend, meet payments and generally keep their fixed line phone.

5.8 Of those offered LUS or In contact, 3 in 4 took up these schemes. Those who refused LUS did so because they felt it was too expensive or too complicated. Those who refused In contact said it did not meet their needs.

How useful do consumers think these schemes are?

5.9 All consumers without a fixed line phone were asked how helpful they felt these schemes would be in assisting them to get a fixed line phone. At best, 1 in 3 considered these schemes helpful in assisting them get a fixed line phone. A further 1 in 4 said they weren’t sure how useful these would be, and would require additional information in order to decide.

5.10 The proportion of ‘not helpful’ was highest amongst those using mobile phones, who appear to be less interested in moving to a fixed phone as they are more satisfied with their method than those using other alternatives. The elderly, low income/not working, and large households were most likely to think LUS and In contact/plus would be helpful to them.

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What could telcos do to assist these consumers get a fixed line phone?

5.11 Since these schemes are obviously not helpful to all consumers, they were asked what a telephone company would need to offer in order for them to have a fixed line phone installed/reinstalled. The top answer, from just over 1 in 5 customers (22%) was ‘nothing – I’m happy as I am’. These were primarily the elderly.

5.12 The more positive reasons from the remainder of customers focused on cost issues, and included:

  • Free/cheaper line rental (21%)
  • Free/cheaper installation (15%)
  • Free/cheaper calls (15%)
  • Generally cheaper charges (9%)
  • Free local/weekend calls (6%)
  • Free calls (6%)
  • Free/cheaper connection (5%)
  • Different payment terms eg pay as you go (7%)

"By offering free line rental. So when you sign up you get a couple of months free line rental. Also I like the idea of getting free minutes on the mobiles, that’s a good idea"

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Appendix 1 Homes without a fixed line phone in Northern Ireland

6.1 Northern Ireland results have been summarised as an appendix to the main report because a shorter version of the questionnaire was conducted via a different omnibus survey.

6.2 In summary, the results are broadly similar to the rest of the UK, in terms of reasons for not having a fixed line phone, and alternatives used. The proportions differ however, indicating both economic differences amongst consumers, and differences in both the availability and use of alternatives in Northern Ireland.

  • 11% of homes without a fixed line phone in Northern Ireland
  • Cost more of an issue than the rest of the UK as a whole - Inability to afford bills main reason for no fixed line
  • Payphones are the main alternative rather than mobiles. Mobiles used by just over 1 in 4
  • Prepay packages, and average payphone and mobile spends are similar to elsewhere
  • Apart from LUS, similar awareness of low usage schemes, at best 1 in 5 aware.
  • About 1 in 3 would prefer to use a fixed line – only slightly higher than GB.

Who are the unphoned?

6.3 Overall, 11% of homes in Northern Ireland claimed to be without a fixed line phone, double the UK 5% average. 7% claim to have no phone at all. Younger consumers (up to 34), not working, DE social grades, and of single marital status were most likely to be living in homes without a fixed phone. They were predominantly living outside of the greater Belfast area, in small households of 1 or 2 people.

Why do these consumers not have a fixed line phone?

6.4 Unlike the rest of the UK where preference for mobiles was the main reason giving for not having fixed line, cost was the main barrier in Northern Ireland.

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What method are these consumers using instead?

6.5 Payphones were the most popular alternative in Northern Ireland, used by 43% of consumers (particularly DE and not working), which was higher than elsewhere in the UK, although average spend was similar at up to 3 per week. Again, the main reasons for not using payphones included preference for mobiles (46%), too far away (10%), and inconvenience (9%).

6.6 Only just over a quarter (28%), were using a mobile as their main alternative, which was significantly lower than GB 55%. The predominance of prepay packages (85%) was similar however and again it was predominantly younger and ABC1s using monthly subscription mobile packages.

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6.7 Monthly mobile spend was broadly in line with the rest of the UK, and again the younger consumers, and those working tended to spend more than other groups:

  • Up to 10 – 15%
  • 10-21 – 35%
  • 21-31 – 24%
  • 31-41 – 18%
  • 41+ - 9%

6.8 Also similar, was the proportion of consumers who said they would prefer to use a fixed line phone rather than their current alternative (32% in NI, 27% in GB). This was highest amongst the middle age groups (35-49) and larger households with children.

Are consumers aware of the low usage schemes for fixed line services?

6.9 Awareness of low usage schemes was also broadly in line with elsewhere, apart from LUS which only 10% claimed to have heard of, compared with double this proportion in GB.

Awareness of schemes:

  • In contact – 20%
  • In contact plus – 3%
  • LUS – 10%
  • Paypoint – 13%
  • Special tariffs for textphone users – 3%

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Appendix 2 Regional variations in phone usage and satisfaction

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