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Ofcom publishes report on the consumer experience
Thursday 16 November 2006 13:33:00 by Andrew Ferguson

A mass of information is contained in the latest report to be published by Ofcom. This latest piece of research is part of Ofcom's work to understand what are the various issues for consumers in the markets it regulates and thus allow it to work to further the interest of consumers. The full report can be downloaded from the Ofcom website. At 161 pages long it is a long read, but we will reproduce a few of the key facts that relate to the UK broadband market.

It seems that for all the complaints about the UK broadband market, coverage is the thing that has gone well, as of January 2006, 99.9% of premises in the UK were connected to an ADSL enabled exchange. Though of course there are issues meaning not all of those properties will get ADSL, which is thought to amount to about 0.4% of properties. Cable broadband coverage is listed as 45% of premises, with LLU at 44% at the time the report was written. With exchanges being unbundled almost every day, this figure is likely to have passed the availability of cable broadband now. The key thing is that many people now have a choice of who provides their telephone and broadband services. The market also has a plethora of Internet Service Providers, with Ofcom estimating the number at around 700.

Page 21 of the report shows how closely internet take-up has mirrored personal computer ownership. In 2000 46% of adults had a home computer versus 30% using the internet, by 2006 this had risen to 68% and 61% respectively. The trends in internet connection method since 2004 are shown below:

Connection

Q4 2004

Q1 2005

Q4 2005

Q1 2006

Q2 2006

Broadband 47% 52% 62% 69% 73%
Narrowband unmetered 19% 16% 16% 6% 9%
Narrowband metered 22% 19% 19% 13% 12%
Narrowband unsure 10% 10% 10% 7% 7%

A surprising little statistic is that over a quarter of broadband users use a wireless router on their broadband connection.

The report also profiles the levels of access for the range of socio-economic profiles of Internet owners versus broadband owners. The internet and broadband tables from pages 23 and 24 are shown below:

 

Total

15 24

25-44

45-64

65+

AB

C1

C2

DE

Internet owners Q2 2005 56% 61% 66% 62% 24% 79% 64% 53% 31%
Internet owners Q2 2006 61% 69% 71% 67% 28% 83% 67% 59% 35%
Broadband owners Q2 2005 62% 72% 63% 63% 30% 62% 60% 63% 64%
Broadband owners Q2 2006 74% 81% 79% 71% 48% 72% 77% 73% 72%

The figures for broadband appear to be much more even across age and the socio-economic groups, with the exception being the 65+ age group. That said the older group is showing significant improvement in the take-up figures.

Page 26 provides some not too surprising statistics. When people were asked about their broadband services connection speed, 38% were unaware of their connections speed, but on further prompting 21% were able to identify if their speed was above or below 512Kbps. 17% remained unaware of their connection speed even with prompting. 'Contention Ratio' is a phrase that means nothing to the majority, with 63% been unaware of its meaning. 52% do not know how to check what speeds they are receiving but oddly 45% feel the speeds they get match their expectations, with 39% saying they exceed expectations. Overall 90% of all broadband customers are satisfied their speeds.

Although the UK broadband market has been pushing usage limits and fair use policies at consumers, and the reality is that the majority of current broadband subscriptions have some form of usage cap, 71% of customers believe they have an unlimited broadband connection. This may reflect the fact that people still see the words unlimited in big flashing lights on adverts, but miss the terms apply phrase, or fail to read these terms.

There is much more information in the report, with this long article only scratching the surface.

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