Wales becoming an upwardly mobile nation

31 July 2013

Nearly a quarter of homes in Wales are shunning the traditional landline and using only mobile phones to make and receive phone calls at home, according to Ofcom research published today.

Twenty-three per cent of households in Wales are mobile-only, significantly more than the UK average of 15 per cent. This is up from 20 per cent last year.

Adults in Cardiff are less likely than those in other parts of Wales to use their landline. This may be due to a higher take-up of internet-enabled mobile devices in Cardiff, with 61% of adults owning one, compared with 42% across the whole of Wales.

Smartphone ownership has also continued to increase in Wales over the past year, with over half (54%) of people now owning a smartphone, a 12 percentage point increase compared to last year. Rural Wales also saw the UK’s biggest increase in smartphone take-up, a 15 percentage point increase on 2012 (from 33% to 48%).

In addition to key findings relating to the take-up and use of communications services in Wales, Ofcom's Communications Market Report for Wales 2013 also looks at the use of and attitudes towards government services online (e-government); consumers' use of the internet to make purchases (e-commerce); users' experience of mobile phone quality of service; and the effect of communications infrastructure availability on Cardiff and Bangor.

The research finds that while next generation broadband access is now available to over 90% of premises in Cardiff, 10% of premises cannot connect to a service that exceeds 2 Mbit/s. Bangor also has reasonably high next generation broadband availability and recently became one of the first areas to benefit from the Superfast Cymru project, the Welsh Government’s partnership with BT to deliver superfast broadband to 96% of Welsh households by 2016.

Bangor also has a very high number of wifi hotspots with 14.1 (per 10,000 population), double that of Cardiff (7.1) and more than double that for the average of the 11 cities researched (6.2).

Rhodri Williams, Ofcom's Director for Wales, said: "In today's Wales, connectivity matters because of the increasing integration of digital communications within daily life - for consumers, citizens and businesses.

"Wales remains at the forefront when it comes to mobile-only homes and it is encouraging to see rural Wales leading the way in smartphone ownership, a trend set to continue with the imminent rollout of 4G services across the UK. 4G services will mean faster mobile broadband speeds, greater innovation, new investment and better coverage across Wales with at least 95% of the population of Wales receiving an indoor 4G coverage by the end of 2017 at the latest. This will mean that 4G coverage will extend beyond that of existing 3G services."

Ian Clarke, Chairman of Ofcom's Advisory Committee for Wales (ACW), said: "This year's Communications Market Report for Wales suggests an increasing preference for mobile telecommunications, with higher levels of mobile-only homes and smartphone ownership in Wales; and lower levels of fixed line broadband take-up compared with the UK average. It will be crucial to ensure that the UK Government's Mobile Infrastructure Project and forthcoming rollout of 4G services serve to support this trend and ensure that all of Wales' residents can access the next generation of mobile services, regardless of location.

"It is also encouraging to see that the volume of originated networked TV productions in Wales increased in 2012. The ACW would welcome further progress in this area and we will continue to campaign for all public service broadcasters to adequately reflect the different viewpoints and cultural diversity of Wales through their network productions."

Key findings for Wales

Use of online services

  • In Wales, two-thirds (66%) 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, higher than the UK average of 61%. Around half (53%) of users of these online services say they have engaged with Government services or policies more since accessing them online, lower than the UK average of 58%.
  • Sixty-two per cent of internet users in Wales say they shop online, the same as the UK average. Seventy nine per cent of online shoppers in Wales say they feel secure when paying online, higher than the UK average of 76%.

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

  • Mobile coverage is particularly important when choosing a provider, for people living in Wales. Mobile users living in Wales are significantly more likely than those in England or Scotland to say that the ability to make or receive calls or texts is the most important factor when choosing a provider.

TV and audio-visual content

  • People in Wales spend 4.5 hours per day watching TV, the highest across all the nations.
  • Spend on first-run originated TV content for viewers in Wales decreased by 3% year on year, slightly below the average UK decline of 4%.
  • First-run originated hours in Wales have decreased by almost a quarter (24%) since 2007; the largest relative reduction in first-run originated nations’ output over the five-year period.

Radio and audio content

  • More people in Wales listen to the radio than in any other nation. Radio services reached 93.1% of the adult population in Wales, the highest of all the UK nations and 3.5 percentage points higher than the UK average of 89.5%.
  • Ownership of DAB digital radios is significantly lower than the UK average. Just over one in four (27%) of those who listen to radio in Wales own a DAB digital radio, compared to the UK average of 41%. The proportion of listening through a digital platform in Wales grew by 1.9 percentage points in 2012, lower than any other UK nation.
  • Commercial radio revenue per head of population was lowest in Wales. The commercial revenues generated by local commercial radio stations in Wales stood at £17.7m in 2012. Adjusting for population size, Wales has the lowest revenue per head of all the UK nations, despite a 10p increase on 2010.

Internet and web-based content

  • One in ten (9%) consumers in Wales access the internet exclusively through a mobile phone, the highest proportion among the devolved nations and twice the UK average (4%). Across all access methods, three-quarters (75%) of consumers in Wales were online by Q1 2013.

Telecoms and networks

  • Wales had the largest increase in the proportion of premises that are in postcodes served by next-generation broadband networks in the year to June 2013. In Wales, this proportion was48% in June 2013. Although this was the lowest figure among the UK nations, it was an 11 percentage point increase compared to the 37% figure recorded in June 2012, the largest increase recorded over the period.
  • Take-up of fixed-line and broadband services are lower than average in Wales. Landline and overall broadband take-up were both below the UK averages for these services in Wales in Q1 2013. In Wales, 66% of households had a broadband connection during the period, nine percentage points lower than the UK average (75%), while fixed line take-up in Wales (76%) was eight percentage points lower than the UK average (84%).


  • Nearly two-thirds of adults in Wales said they loved sending and receiving letters and cards (65%), higher than any other UK nation.
  • People in Wales are more likely to have reduced the amount of post they send and to expect this trend to continue. When asked about how the amount of post they send has changed in recent times, people in Wales are the most likely to say they now send less (-15% net). They also anticipate that they will reduce their use of post for sending letters, cards and parcels in the future (-16% net).
  • Businesses in Wales are the least likely to have switched some mail to other communication methods in the past year. When asked if their organisation had moved some mail to another form of communication over the past 12 months, 61% of respondents in Wales said that they had, the lowest proportion of all the UK nations. Among those which had, businesses in Wales are more likely to say this is for better speed, rather than as a cost-saving exercise.

Highlights from 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 Wales 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 Wales. Quotas were set and weighting applied to ensure that the sample was representative of the population of Wales 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 Wales 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.