James Thickett introduces Ofcom's Communication Report for 2008
People in the UK are spending more time using communications services than ever before - but paying less for them, according to Ofcom's latest annual report into the UK's £51 billion communications industry.
The 365 page report shows that in 2007 we spent an average of 7 hours and 9 minutes a day using an array of communications services - up by 6 minutes from 2002. This includes watching television, surfing the net, using our mobiles, talking on a landline phone and listening to the radio.
Our mobile and internet use has increased by the greatest amount. Between 2002 and 2007 the time we spent talking and texting on our mobiles doubled, up from 5 minutes to 10 minutes each day. Meanwhile, time spent on PCs and lap-tops has grown fourfold between 2002 and 2007 - from 6 minutes to 24 minutes per person every day.
Despite this growth in use and take up, when it comes to paying for communications services, consumers get more for their pound. Overall average household spend on communications services was £93.63 a month in 2007, a fall of £1.53 (1.6 per cent) on the average spend in 2006 and a fall of £4.31 (4.4 per cent) since 2004.
This compares to big price increases for other goods, with food prices up by almost 7 per cent and the overall retail price index (RPI) rising to 4.1 per cent in 2007.
There are three main reasons behind the fall in the price of communications services:
Take-up of broadband through a landline grew from 52 per cent of households to 58 per cent in 12 months, mainly as a result of consumers upgrading from dial-up access to always-on broadband.
Following the launch of marketing campaigns for mobile broadband devices which enable consumers to access the internet on the move, there has been a surge in take-up with around 2 million adults in the UK saying that they had used a data card, USB modem or dongle to access the internet in March 2008.
The driver of this has been the sale of dongles - small devices plugged into the USB port of laptops enabling internet access via a mobile network. Between February and June 2008, the number of dongle sales to consumers nearly doubled from 69,000 to 133,000 a month. During this five month period, there were 511,000 new mobile broadband connections in the UK.
Three-quarters of all mobile broadband users say that they access the internet via their dongle while at home and two-thirds of mobile broadband users say that they use both dongles and their landline to connect to the internet.
More than one in ten mobile phone users have accessed the internet on their mobile phone with the number of 3G mobile connections growing by 60 per cent in 2007 to reach 12.5 million subscribers - an increase of 4.7 million in 12 months.
Whilst there has been a small increase in the number of minutes spent each day watching the TV (218 minutes in 2007, compared with 216 in 2006), we are increasingly taking control of our TV viewing. Viewers are watching programmes when they want and how they want, rather than just relying on the TV schedules.
The proportion of people with an internet connection who are watching TV programmes online more than doubled from 8 to 17 per cent in twelve months. The BBC iPlayer, which enables viewers to watch programmes up to a week after they were broadcast, delivered more than 700,000 daily video streams in May 2008.
Nearly a third of internet users (32 per cent) watched video clips and webcasts in 2007, compared to a fifth (21 per cent) in 2006. The number of UK internet users who watched YouTube, reached 9 million in April this year, nearly 50 per cent more than a year ago.
More of us are now able to choose when to watch, pause and rewind live TV. At the end of 2007 nearly 6 million households (23%) had a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) up by 53% in a year.
With climate change high on the agenda it is not surprising that seven in ten people say that they care about the environment
And while a third of people are aware that their household devices consume more power now than they did two years ago, fewer than four in ten (39 per cent) consider the impact on the environment when buying a communications device. This is much lower than in other sectors. When we buy white goods, for example, more than half (54 per cent) said that the environment was a factor in their decision.
Two-thirds of us claim to turn devices off to save energy but many use power unnecessarily. More than half of us leave our set-top boxes on standby when not in use. If every set-top box in the UK is left on standby for one year this would use the same amount of power needed to make nearly 80 billion cups of tea.
Peter Phillips , Partner, Strategy and Market Development, said: "We are spending more and more time with our communications devices but spending less on them. Our devotion to watching, listening and staying in touch wherever and whenever we want shows no sign of diminishing and, with healthy competition, overall prices offer increasing value for money. That is what consumers demand and what Ofcom helps deliver."
1. For the first time an interactive version of the key points in the document is available online at comment.ofcom.org.uk/cmr08