Ofcom research highlights differing experiences of communications services

14 January 2019

There are distinct differences in how certain groups of people use and experience communications services, revealed in Ofcom’s latest Access and Inclusion research report published today.

The research compares aspects such as affordability, take-up and engagement with phone, TV and postal services across different groups of people, and looks at how people’s age, income or disabilities can affect how they use some services and technology.

The research found that older people’s use of telephones is changing. Now, just under one in five people over the age of 75 use a smartphone, and more people in this age group also use a mobile phone at home, instead of using a landline.

The most financially vulnerable people are less likely to have all of the main communications services – landline, mobile, broadband and pay TV. Of the people in this group who do have a broadband connection, a smaller than average proportion has access to superfast broadband.

Disabled people are less likely use most communications services and technology. For example, just over half (53%) of disabled people have a smartphone in their household, compared with 81% of non-disabled people. Also, we found only 67% of disabled people use the internet, compared to 92% of non-disabled people.

Our research also found some vulnerable people have had difficulty paying for communications services in the last year. People with long-term mental illnesses (33%) and young people aged between 16 and 24 (17%) are the most likely to struggle to pay for these services. In contrast, older people are the least likely to have struggled, with just 2% of over-75s saying they have been unable to afford them.

The report also highlights the proportion of people who have switched communications services in the past year. We found that in most markets, at least one in five people have either changed their service or changed provider in the past year – and this rises to one in four people who have bought a bundled home phone, TV and broadband package.

The full, interactive data from the report is available at the Ofcom website.

Ofcom carries out a range of work to help protect vulnerable consumers. Recent work has included securing a £7-per-month reduction in the price of line rental BT’s landline-only customers; capping call charges for directory enquiry services; and introducing rules requiring companies to identify and protect vulnerable customers.

We also recently launched the Boost Your Broadband campaign and website, offering people advice on how to get the best broadband deal for their needs. We have also launched a review of broadband pricing, looking at why some customers pay more than others for their services.