The Communications Market Report: UK

04 August 2016

Digital detoxers are ditching their devices.

The Communications Market Report 2016 PDF, 4.2 MB

Fifteen million UK internet users have undertaken a ‘digital detox’ in a bid to strike a healthier balance between technology and life beyond the screen.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2016 reveals how our reliance on the internet is affecting people’s personal and working lives, leading many to seek time away from the web to spend time with friends and family.

It finds that one in three adult internet users (34%), equivalent to 15 million people in the UK, has sought a period of time offline, with one in ten (11%) doing so in the last week alone.

Of these digital down-timers, 25% spent up to a day internet-free; 20% took up to a week off; and 5% went web-free for up to a whole month.

Many people found their time offline to be a positive experience: a third (33%) said they felt more productive, 27% found it liberating, while a quarter (25%) enjoyed life more. However, 16% experienced a ‘fear of missing out’ (‘FOMO’) while on the web wagon, 15% felt lost and 14% ‘cut-off’.

Online revolution

Ofcom’s report shows that faster internet access is more widely available than ever before, with take-up of superfast broadband2 and 4G on the increase.

With people better connected than ever before, they can spend more time doing what they love online – such as watching the latest on-demand series, or chatting with friends and family via instant messaging services, both of which have seen a recent surge in popularity.

Three in four internet users (75%) consider the web ‘important’ to their daily lives. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) agree it helps keep them up-to-date about current affairs and social issues, while almost two thirds (63%) credit it with inspiring them to try new things such as travel destinations, restaurants, recipes or entertainment.

As a result of the internet’s importance in many people’s daily lives, adult users in the UK currently spend an average of one day per week (25 hours) online; 42% say they go online or check apps more than 10 times a day, while around one in 10 (11%) access the internet more than 50 times daily.

Most internet users (59%) even consider themselves ‘hooked’ on their connected device – while a third (34%) admit they find it difficult to disconnect.

Jane Rumble, Director of Market Intelligence at Ofcom said: “The internet has revolutionised our lives for the better. But our love affair with the web isn’t always plain surfing, and many people admit to feeling hooked.

“So millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives, and going on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance.”

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2016 is a comprehensive annual study of the UK’s internet, telecoms, broadcasting and postal sectors. The report acts as a reference for industry and consumers, and provides context and evidence for Ofcom’s work in making communications services work for everyone.

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Broadcast TV generated record revenues of £13.6bn last year – partly driven by pay-TV subscription income rising to £6.2bn.

Some 27% of households now own a smart TV.

Older adults watch more live TV than in 2014 but younger adults watch less

Almost six in ten adults used a video-on-demand (VoD) service in 2015.

A quarter (26%) watch paid-for VoD services each week – up from 18% of in 2014.

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Total UK radio industry revenue remained stable at £1.2bn.

Some 89.6% tuned into the radio in 2015 and spent just over three hours listening each day.

But time spent listening by 15-24s has fallen by five hours in the past ten years.

Two-fifths of radio listening is through a digital device.

Almost a fifth of adults (19%) use a streaming service, up from 13% the previous year.

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Almost nine in ten (86%) of UK adults now have internet access at home.

The average internet user estimates they spend 25 hours online each week.

Smartphones are the most widely-owned internet-enabled device among UK households.

Total UK expenditure on internet advertising increased by 16.4% to £8.6bn

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Total UK telecoms revenue increased by £0.2bn to £37.5bn.

Mobile subscriptions increased to 91.5 million – of which 39.5 million were 4G.

The number of superfast broadband connections rose by 9.2 million (28.7%) during the year.

The average fixed broadband line used 82 GB of data per month in 2015 – a 41% increase from June 2014.

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Addressed letter volumes continued to fall (by 3.7% to 12.2bn) and at a faster rate than in 2014.

But with nearly a quarter of adults (23%) saying they prefer to shop online, demand for parcel services remains high.

UK adults sent an average of 6.6 items of post per month in 2015, of which 1.2 items were parcels.

A majority of adults (56%) say they prefer to send emails rather than letters whenever possible.

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See all of our Communications Market Reports