Superfast broadband and 4G takeup grows, but millions undertake “digital detox” after spending a day a week online
Adoption of superfast broadband and 4G is rising in the UK, but many are taking ‘digital detoxes’ as a consequence of the increasing influence of connectivity and technology in everyday life.
An Ofcom survey of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers also revealed how addicted many people are to technology, with a majority of internet users admitting they are “hooked” and typically spending one a day a week online.
But this is provoking people to re-examine their priorities, as the Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2016 found that one in three adult internet users (34 percent or 15 million people), has sought a period of time offline.
Of these digital down-timers, 25 percent spent up to a day internet-free; 20 percent took up to a week off; and 5 percent went web-free for up to a whole month. Many people (33 percent) said they felt more productive after their digital timeout; 27 percent found it liberating, and a quarter (25 percent) enjoyed life more.
But some (16 percent) said they were fearful of “missing out”, 15 percent felt lost, and 14 percent felt cut off.
And as the holiday season continues, 30 percent of UK adults admitted to a digital detox holiday. Sixteen percent of UK adults have purposely visited a destination with no internet access, while 9 percent have intentionally travelled to a place with neither internet nor mobile phone coverage.
And the Ofcom study found that unsurprisingly, most Brits are increasingly enjoying the advantages of superfast broadband and 4G.
The UK communications regulator said that by the end of last year, 9.2 million fixed broadband connections were superfast, compared to just 7.1 million in 2014.
There are a total of 24.7 million fixed broadband connections in the UK. The average fixed broadband line used 82 GB of data per month in 2015, up 41 percent from the 58GB per month recorded in June 2014.
And moving away from wires, it seems that our mobile appetite continues to grow with 71 percent of UK adults owning a smartphone (compared to 66 percent in 2014).
4G accounted for almost half of all mobile subscriptions (46 percent or 39.5 million connections), up from 28 percent (23.6 million) in 2014.
And it seems that nowadays most UK homes and businesses (97.8 percent) have 4G coverage from at least one service provider.
But the rise of mobile has created problems, notably the issue of “smart snubbing”, where people’s attachments to their devices is getting in the way of face-to-face communication.
Indeed, go to any resturant or coffee shop nowadays and it is common to see people using their mobile devices, rather than actually talking to each other. Four in 10 UK adults (40 percent) felt they’d been ‘smart-snubbed’ (ignored by a friend or relative too engrossed in their smartphone or tablet) at least once a week; while 17 percent said this happened on a daily basis.
“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,” said Jane Rumble, Director of Market Intelligence at Ofcom.
“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,” Rumble added.
The average amount that households spends on telecom services has also increased (mostly down to people switching to superfast broadband). That said, the number of households with landline telephones continued to fall, decreasing 1 percent to 33.2 million in 2015 as people move to mobile services and instant messaging.
Mobile subscriptions has risen 1.8 percent to 91.5 million during 2015, of which half were 4G (39.5 million).
Two thirds (66 percent) of adults now use internet data services on a mobile phone, but the use of SMS and MMS messages continues to plummet. Indeed SMS and MMS volumes have fallen by around a third since peaking in 2012, thanks in a large part to the rise of Instant Messaging.