- In the previous two years, take-up of broadband was strikingly lower in rural than in urban areas. This year, the data suggest that, taken as a whole, rural areas have caught up – in fact, slightly overtaken urban areas. Overall, 57% of UK homes now have a broadband internet connection, up from 45% a year earlier. I think this is great news as it has felt that broadband uptake had remained relatively static. I'm interested to see how the broadband providers cope with the increasing popularity of the BBC iplayer and other TV channel's video offerings. It's using up a *lot* of bandwidth.
- There are other striking patterns; in the UK’s biggest cities, such as Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Manchester, an ever-larger segment of the population is living without the use of fixed-line telephony. Across the UK as a whole, 87% of homes have a fixed-line telephone (down three percentage points from last year). The 12% of homes which rely on mobile phones only are able, increasingly, to access broadband through wireless technology. I still have a landline but I barely use it - I only have it for accessing broadband as I can't get cable in my area. It seems to me to be a terrible waste of money (and a nice little earner for BT) to keep the line but it's essential thus far.
- People are also using broadband to download video. This report suggests that 30% of adults have taken advantage of video downloading, although on a city-by-city analysis, the hottest hotspots are Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh. I thought this figure would have been higher - I need to explore this section in the report further.
- There are many other such fascinating points of detail in the pages that follow. Social networking, as Ofcom has previously reported, is now enjoyed by one in five UK adults. This report suggests that the people of Northern Ireland are among the UK’s most avid social networkers. Across the UK, these sites are most popular among young people. I wonder if that's because the Northern Irish like to chat?! (I have pals from North of the Border in Ireland and they *do* like to talk... I'm jesting! But seriously, if you think facebook is huge in the UK now, it still has some way to go in the market place if we're still at 20% penetration of usage.
- Another big trend is the fact that more than 85% of UK homes now have digital television – ten percentage points higher than a year ago and a significant milestone to have passed in the year in which digital switchover began, in Copeland, Cumbria. At the same time, take-up of digital radio continues to grow, with one in five adults reporting that they have a DAB digital radio at home. Digital here we come. Now if only the signal were reliable in my area... oddly enough, I can actually see the Crystal Palace mast from the end of my road but my signal can be patchy despite the proximity. And if I have my laptop and mobile going at the same time, I quickly get interference on the signal. Sigh.
Anyway, the Ofcom report is a must-read to get the lowdown on the state of the communications market in the UK. It's a veritable mine of well-researched information. Oh, and even better, it's free!