Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Bournemouth, UK
45% UK homes connected to the Internet
49% UK adults use the Internet in a variety of locations
45% UK homes connected to the Internet
39% Internet homes currently using unmetered packages
2% Internet homes using broadband
96% Internet decision-makers were satisfied with their Internet service
8 hours is the average weekly household time spent online
2.1 About half of UK adults claim to use the Internet, and do so in a variety of locations. The majority of these have access at home, and of those who don’t have home access, 11% use the Internet in alternative locations. The majority (87%) of those without home access are satisfied with the locations where they access the Internet, and 73% (of those without home access) did not intend getting Internet at home in the next 12 months.
2.2 Home Internet penetration continues to rise, following a brief stabilisation in August 2001. Currently 45% of homes are connected. We can probably expect to see more fluctuations of this nature given that the gap between PC ownership (which remains the main means of Internet access) and Internet penetration has been narrowing steadily over the last two years. This indicates that the majority of homes with a PC are already connected to the Internet. The cost of a PC may become a more evident barrier to home Internet access, particularly amongst the lower income groups and older consumers where PC ownership is lowest.
2.3 Multi-line usage was significantly higher in Internet homes (3 in 10 had more than one line) than non-Internet homes. The majority of these multi lines were from the same supplier, 5% had both cable and BT lines. Three-quarters of Internet homes used their additional lines for Internet and email. Internet homes were also more likely to use cable (28%) compared with non-Internet homes (20%).
Home access methods
2.4 94% of homes connected to the Internet had a PC for Internet use. Use of alternative access methods including TV (4%) and mobile (3%) remain niche market methods, used by a minority of consumers. Over four in five (83%) of all Internet customers used ordinary phoneline / dial up access, while subscriber figures show that about 2% of homes used broadband access via ADSL or cable modems.
Interest in broadband Internet access
2.5 Just over half (55%) of narrowband users expressed interest in upgrading to broadband access. These tended to be longer established and heavier users, those already using unmetered packages and ISDN, and those dissatisfied with their current speeds. However, despite the significant interest, consumers were prepared to pay an additional £6 per month on average for broadband (or just less than £20 per month in total for their Internet service), which is approaching the bottom of the current range of broadband prices (£20 upwards per month, excluding installation costs).
2.6 Qualitative research conducted on behalf of Oftel (further details of which can be found in the main text) reported high levels of satisfaction among existing broadband users and unwillingness to return to narrowband access. It also reported significant levels of interest among existing narrowband users who were asked to test broadband services. Faster speed was the main attraction for most narrowband users, while the other features were seen as a bonus rather than fundamentally important. However, the general consensus was that faster speed was not sufficiently desirable to justify current costs for most consumers at the moment. New ‘broadband’ packages (at lower speeds) such as those being offered by ntl at £15 per month, may be more financially attractive to consumers, but are obviously available only to those in ntl cabled areas.
ISPs and packages
2.8 Use of unmetered packages showed no change at about 40% since August 2001. A further 40% of those currently using metered packages expressed interest in upgrading to unmetered access – mainly heavier users, particularly those already paying a regular subscription as well as calls. The remainder felt that they didn’t use the Internet enough to need unmetered access, indicating awareness of their usage patterns, and at least some awareness of when unmetered would be viable.
Satisfaction with home Internet service
2.9 Almost nine in 10 (89%) Internet customers were satisfied with their overall service. Although this was slightly lower than satisfaction with mobile and fixed services (both 93%), satisfaction with Internet was higher amongst the Internet decision-maker in the home, at 96%. This is likely to be more comparable with the fixed and mobile figures since the majority of ratings for fixed and mobile were given by the decision-makers for these services. All provide a more accurate measure of satisfaction as the decision-makers are likely to have more realistic expectations of the service.
2.10 91% were satisfied with overall costs. Slightly fewer were satisfied with speed of service (80%), which along with connection problems were mentioned as the main problems consumers had experienced with their Internet service (albeit by less than a fifth of customers). Issues to do with speed appear to becoming more important to Internet customers, perhaps reflecting increased usage and awareness of increasingly available faster alternatives.
Use of competition and choices in the Internet market
2.11 There are continuing indications that a significant proportion of Internet customers are shopping around and making reasoned choices with regard to their home Internet service, particularly heavier users:
- Evidence of price versus quality trade off – customers using subscription and calls packages were less likely to say they were getting the best price for their service, but were more likely to say they were getting the best quality (service, aftercare etc). Those on calls only packages held the opposite view ie more said they were getting the best price, but fewer were getting the best quality.
- Significant and reasoned switching behaviour – 46% of decision-makers said their household had changed its ISP at least once, and 38% had changed the type of package they used. Those switching to unmetered package said this was primarily a cost decision as they usage had increased. Those switching to subscription and calls packages said this was for better reliability and service, while those switching to calls only packages did so for cost reasons, or following a decrease in use. The main reason for not switching was satisfaction with existing service rather than any significant barriers to switching.
- Nine in 10 decision-makers used some sort of information to assist them in their connection choices – 86% were satisfied with the information available. Just over half (56%) shopped around and compared deals before making their choice, particularly heavy users and early adopters. More recent adopters appear to have done less shopping around, perhaps as Internet has become more mass market consumers assume they will automatically get a good deal, or can seek advice from a wider range of family and friends. Given the wider range of choices available this might be of concern, however, those less likely to shop around tend to be lighter users such as older consumers, and as such are unlikely to experience much of a detriment as more are using metered packages.
- Heavier users (who it could be argued could experience greatest detriment from being on the wrong package) exhibited greater awareness of the choices available; were more likely to have shopped around and switched various elements of their service; and as a result were more confident they were getting the best deal.
Stats for other months and broadband are at http://www.oftel.gov.uk/consumer/research/con_int.htm