Mobile internet use grows in Scotland

31 July 2013

The use of mobile phones to access the internet has grown faster in Scotland than any other UK nation over the last year, according to new Ofcom research published today.

The proportion of those in Scotland that access the web on their mobile was 44% in 2013, an increase of 13 percentage points on last year. Mobile phone users in Scotland also reported greater use of online activities than the UK average for visiting websites (50% compared to 39%), accessing email (45% compared to 37%), and social networking (44% compared to 37%).

This increase has been partly driven by the rise in smartphone ownership in Scotland: up 13 percentage points to 45% of adults, but still below the UK average of 51%. But Scotland has the highest satisfaction levels for connecting to the internet via a mobile network. Ninety-three per cent were satisfied with their ability to do so, compared to the UK average of 88%.

Overall, the research shows that Scotland is starting to catch up in the mobile market. A seven percentage point rise in take-up brings mobile ownership to 92% and use of pay-monthly mobiles to 58% - levels comparable with the UK averages.

A quarter of households in Scotland also now own a tablet computer with take-up more than doubling, from 11% to 24%, equal to the UK average. Those in Scotland most likely to have purchased a tablet are aged 35-54 (43% of whom had one in their household) and from higher-income households (40% of those with an annual household income of £17,500 and above).

These findings are revealed in Ofcom's Communications Market Report for Scotland 2013, which examines the availability, take-up and use of internet, telecommunications, post and broadcasting services.

Slight rise in broadband take-up

Home broadband take-up in Scotland increased from 68% in 2012 to 70% in 2013, continuing the upward trend from 2011, though below the UK average of 75%.

In Glasgow, data from both the British Population Survey (BPS) and Ofcom's own research show that broadband penetration has remained static. The BPS data for the City of Glasgow shows 50% of households had fixed broadband, the same figure as 2011.

Broadband customers in Scotland claimed to spend the most time online than in other devolved nations. At 18.3 hours per week, this is higher than Wales and Northern Ireland, and the UK average of 16.8 hours per week. Internet users in Scotland also report higher weekly use than the UK average of instant messaging and chat rooms (37% compared to 27%) and social networking (66% compared to 55%).

Three-quarters of households in Scotland (76%) had access to the internet in 2013 by using broadband, mobile phone or narrowband internet. This figure increased six percentage points year on year and is slightly lower than the UK average of 80%.

Mixed picture for broadcasting

The total expenditure by public service broadcasters on first-run originated TV programmes specifically for viewers in Scotland was down 6% from 2011 to 2012 to £52m.

Over the five years from 2007 to 2012, Scotland bucked the trend for spend on current affairs output. Over that period, the spend on current affairs by the BBC and STV increased by 6% against a 28% decline for the UK as a whole. Scotland was the only nation to show an increase over this period.

For networked programming made in Scotland, first-run productions accounted for 4.4% of of UK expenditure, indicating no growth in this area over the past 12 months. However the volume of network programming made in Scotland went up from 6.8% in 2011 to 7.2% in 2012.

Scotland had the greatest number of HD-ready TV homes at 79%. Fifty two percent of adults say they would miss the TV most out of all media activities, higher than the UK average of 43%.

Highly satisfied with Royal Mail

People in Scotland are significantly more likely to say they are very satisfied with Royal Mail, compared to people across the whole of the UK (67% compared to 40%). Overall, 93% of people in Scotland are satisfied with Royal Mail.

Despite this, adults in Scotland send the fewest items of post (5) each month compared to the UK average of 7. More than half (56%) agreed they only send post if there is no alternative, with people in Scotland preferring to email companies rather than using the post.

Almost half of adults use First Class all the time, despite the majority (79%) saying they trusted Second Class to arrive in a reasonable amount of time.

Vicki Nash, Director of Ofcom Scotland, said: "It is good to see Scotland catching up in our use of communications and media. This applies to the rise in take-up of tablets, mobiles and smartphones, along with growth in the use of mobile internet.

"Some of the trends reported in last year's report continue. Broadband take-up for Scotland as a whole has increased - not as large an increase as reported last year, but still an upward trend.

"There are some new findings, including the fact that internet users in Scotland spend the most time online, compared to users in the other devolved nations. Once people in Scotland discover the advantages of being connected, they appear to make the most of it.

Other key market developments in Scotland Use of online services

  • In Scotland, 57% of those with internet access use online government services, such as paying car tax, and applying for benefits, a bus pass, or a school place, lower than the UK average of 61%. Around three fifths (62%) of users of online government services say they have engaged with government services or policies more since accessing them online, higher than the UK average of 58%.
  • Around two-thirds of internet users in Scotland say they now shop online, and 70% of these online shoppers feel secure when making online payments.
  • Three-quarters of online shoppers in Scotland are confident that goods bought online will be delivered on time and in good condition. But among current online shoppers in Scotland, 37% had previously not made a purchase because of a concern regarding delivery; 26% mentioned concerns about high delivery costs, and 13% were worried they would not be at home to receive the items.

'Not-spots' - users' experience of mobile phone quality of service

  • Consumers in Scotland experience the same frequency of problems as those in the rest of the UK. 'No signal' is the problem experienced by most respondents (31%) regarding use of mobile phones, followed by poor sound quality (17%) and calls ending unexpectedly (13%).
  • The ability to make or receive calls or texts is particularly important for people living in rural areas. Users living in rural areas are significantly more likely than those living in urban areas to rate the ability to make or receive calls as 'most important' when choosing a mobile provider (45% compared to 37%).

TV and audio-visual content

  • Digital Terrestrial Television (such as Freeview) is the most widely-used TV platform in Scotland. Forty-three per cent of all TV households now use the service. In 2011, satellite television had a higher penetration, with 44% of all TV households taking this service.
  • The combined share of the five main PSB channels in 2012 declined by ten percentage points to 53% in Scotland. This reduction was slightly less than the average decrease across the UK (11 percentage points).
  • BBC One's and STV's early evening news bulletins attracted greater share in Scotland than in the UK; an average 30% share of TV viewing - marginally higher than the UK at 28%

Radio and audio content

  • Among all the UK nations, Scotland has the lowest reach for radio. Radio services reached 86.7% of the adult population in Scotland, compared to the UK average of 89.5%.
  • Local commercial stations are more popular in Scotland than in other nations. In 2012 they accounted for a 38% share of all listening hours in Scotland;higher for this sector than in any other UK nation and the UK as a whole where local commercial share is 30%.
  • Commercial radio revenue per head of population was highest in Scotland. The revenues generated by local commercial radio stations in Scotland reached £40.6m in 2012. Adjusting for population size, Scotland has the largest revenue per head of the UK nations, at £7.72.
  • Scotland listens to more music that has been downloaded to mobiles and MP3 players than the the UK as a whole (46% compared to 36%).

Telecoms and networks

  • 'Up to' 120Mbit/s cable broadband services are available to over a third (38%) of premises in Scotland.
  • Next generation access networks are available in postcodes serving over half (52%) of premises in Scotland. This compares to three-quarters (73%) in the UK as a whole.
  • One in seven households in Scotland was mobile-only in at the beginning of 2012: 16% of households in Scotland used mobiles as their only form of telephony at the beginning of 2013.


  • A fifth of adults in Scotland say they spent less than £1 on postage for their items in the past month, compared to 13% across the UK. This is driven by the number of people spending 50p or less (11% in Scotland compared to 5% across the UK).

Highlights of the UK report

Huge growth in take-up of smartphones and tablets is creating a nation of media multi-taskers, transforming the traditional living room of our parents and grandparents into a digital media hub.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2013 reveals that people are still coming together to watch TV in the living room - 91% of UK adults view TV on the main set each week, up from 88% in 2002. However, an increasing array of digital media are now vying for their attention. People are streaming videos, firing off instant messages and updating their social media status - all while watching more TV than before.

These activities are mostly carried out using smartphones, with over half of adults (51%) now owning these devices, almost double the proportion two years ago (27%).

At the same time, tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year, rising from 11% of homes to 24%. The average household now owns more than three types of internet enabled device, with one in five owning six or more.



  1. Ofcom's Communications Market Report provides an overview of communications services across Scotland and monitors key trends in the availability and take-up of digital services across the nation.
  2. Face-to-face surveys were conducted with 3,750 respondents aged 16+ in the UK, with 492 interviews conducted in Scotland. Quotas were set and weighting applied to ensure that the sample was representative of the population of Scotland in terms of age, gender, socio-economic group and geographic location. (Fieldwork took place in January and February 2013.)
  3. Note the survey sample in Scotland has error margins of approximately +/- 3-4% at the 95% confidence level. In urban and rural areas, survey error margins are approximately +/-4-6%.
  4. Respondents were defined as urban if they lived in a settlement with a population of 2000 or more and rural if they lived in areas with smaller populations.
  5. In addition to the survey data, this report refers to data from a range of other sources, including data provided to Ofcom by stakeholders.