What Does Ofcom Communications Report Mean For Business, Government And Operators?

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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NEWS ANALYSIS: The growth of 4G, ubiquity of mobile and increasing demands for connectivity is having a major impact on technology industry

The smartphone has displaced the laptop as the primary device of choice for UK internet users, according to Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report, which highlighted the growth of 4G, applications and mobile photography – well, selfies – as drivers.

But what does the report mean for consumers and businesses who have to cope with trends like BYOD and security, and can mobile broadband ever replace fixed connections?

For businesses and consumers

Andrew Ferguson, editor of

telecoms“Any business with a strong web presence will already have known about the shift in casual browsing from laptops to mobiles, and while it is easy to credit this to the rise of 4G, the increased size of smartphone screens, capabilities and increased availability of sites designed for use on mobile are also major factors in the shift.

“The rise of social media, with people reading articles by following links from Twitter and Facebook, also means many people read news on their phone, either at the breakfast table, on the train to work or when trying to avoid conversation at family meals.

“4G is yet to replace fixed line broadband to any significant extent due to the lack of unlimited 4G data plans at this time and it was only the other day that Virgin Media revealed its users average 108GB of data use per month, almost double what Ofcom reports as average use back in June 2014 and until 4G can meet these sorts of data allowances, fixed line services will remain dominant.”

Rob Hilborn, head of strategy for Broadband Genie

“The explosive growth of 4G and better, cheaper smartphones means the UK is now increasingly turning to portable devices for online services. While 4G was initially off to a slow start the coverage is now greatly improved. It offers a noticeable jump in performance over 3G services and often for no extra cost as many networks offer 4G connectivity to any subscriber with a compatible device.

“Alongside this, smartphones have never been better or more affordable. Cheap handsets like Motorola’s sub-£200 Moto G offer a high end experience at budget prices, while the flagship models provide an incredible amount of power and flexibility. The trend for larger smartphones will also have made an impact on user behaviour.

“Many new smartphones now have screen sizes of 5-6 inches or more which makes web browsing far more comfortable. This combined with ever improving apps and mobile browsers and the widespread use of responsive web sites means smartphones are delivering an online experience approaching that on laptops and desktops. Rather than booting up a computer many of us are now simply picking up a smartphone or tablet for everything from TV to online banking.”

David Kennerley, senior manager for Threat Research at Webroot

“Despite the fact that the smartphone is now the device of choice for many; a hub on which we store all aspects of our life – both personally and professionally – many of us fail to protect it in the same way we do our laptops. Cyberattacks are more prolific than ever, and many businesses are clearly struggling to keep their employee and customer data safe. Cybercriminals look for the simplest method to achieve their objective and mobile devices offer an attractive attack vector, making it a common entry point for breaches to organisations.

“As we move to a mobile-first society, business should be very concerned about threats such as mobile malware, mobile vulnerabilities and data loss. It is important to implement a comprehensive mobile security strategy that considers both personal and corporate devices. This strategy should cover everything from threat protection and patch management to user education. By ignoring mobile device security businesses are risking their reputation and customer loyalty, which could potentially have huge financial repercussions.”

Sean Ginevan, senior director of strategy for MobileIron

“The news that smartphones are now a more popular means of getting online than laptops has been a long time coming. While Ofcom’s survey was based largely around the rise in consumer’s web browsing via a mobile device, changes in IT are increasingly driven by the consumer and more of us are using our own devices to get our work done.
“As this shift begins to take hold in the workplace the IT department is faced with a unique set of challenges, not least the growing popularity of wearable devices. In order to take advantage of the new ways of working that greater mobile use in the office presents, IT departments need to focus on adaptive strategies that balance employee wants with company security needs. Mobile internet use is only going to increase, so Ofcom’s report highlights the importance of rethinking the PC model for the mobile era.”

For government

Professor Will Stewart, Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

© Jan Schuler -“Smartphones have become the hub of our daily lives and are now in the pockets of two thirds of UK adults, and the vast majority of young people own one.  Even half of 55 – 64 year olds now own a smartphone. The data from Ofcom highlights the urgent need for radical changes to be made to the 999 emergency service so that those in need can text as well as call.

“Much of the technology we need to update our emergency service is available today. But we urgently need to make progress now, with clear ownership from Government and Ministerial leadership.”

Regina Moran, CEO, UK and Ireland, Fujitsu

“The fact that 15 percent of UK adults do not have household access to the Internet highlights that there are still a lot more to be done before the UK is a truly digital nation. Every single digital stakeholder – from the Government to technology providers – must work together to ensure the entire nation is ready for a digitally-led world. This means education programmes similar to that undertaken in the run-up to the digital switchover in 2012.

“It also means that we cannot yet go 100 percent digital. Our research revealed that over a third of consumers prefer to talk to a real person depending on the conversation, so for now, a smart digital nation must be one which embraces the multichannel – businesses must use digital for the right reasons at the right time, but maintain traditional channels where needed.”

For operators

Ben Agnew, director of the Broadband World Forum

“Ofcom’s report underlines that consumer appetite for internet delivered content and services is racing ahead of our industry’s ability to provide the services and infrastructure to meet demand. Increases and improvements to accessibility, bandwidth and speed are being immediately overtaken by a need for more, and more at lower prices.

“It’s exciting for the broadband industry but it’s also a period where we need to keep focussed on building a sustainable and affordable infrastructure in a collaborative way, rather than with a short-term land-grab approach that will only damage revenues and the ability to provide secure and reliable services in the long-term.

“We are addressing this at this year’s Broadband World Forum by bringing together service providers such as BT and operators like Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent to discuss how we can innovate and meet the growing demand for faster and more accessible communications.”

Guru Grewal, global head of telco solutions for IT services firm Virtusa 

“The report continues to shows telco revenues in decline, falling by 2 percent to £37.4 billion in 2014 – losing market share every year since 2008 is unsustainable and, with EU data roaming charges due to be phased out by 2017, the need to look at new cost-effective approaches, such as introducing SDN, has never been more urgent.

packetfront“With Ofcom’s figures also showing that two thirds of people now own a smartphone for internet browsing, overtaking laptops as the most popular way of getting online, there clearly is a huge market for telcos to tap in to.”

“There is a real need for [communication service providers] to be more innovative about the services they offer to customers and to make greater use of technology to create more revenue opportunities as others dry up.

James Walker, managed networking services, Tata Communications

“With more and more people using smartphones to go online, their connectivity needs are driving major change in communications service providers’ networks. Bandwidth needs continue to increase with video calling, online collaboration, and cloud services. The rate of innovation continues apace. People expect services to be available all the time, reliably, continuously, and everywhere – and we are witnessing an explosion in numbers of devices needing connectivity. As service providers we have an obligation to continue to stay a step ahead.

“Of course software-defined networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) help us in that direction, but we also need to ensure the seamless global interconnection of all these services and networks. We’re pleased that Ofcom is taking a leading role to focus the industry on the changing ways that people are using communications services in their lives, and now it is incumbent on the industry to step up and adapt. Exciting times lie ahead, and we are committed to ensuring the UK will be an important part of that bright future.”

Sue Koch, product marketing, Amdocs Data Experience

“It’s interesting that Ofcom reports that the use of bundled services remains stable but there’s evidence of potential for change here. Our own consumer research indicates that one area with the potential for significant growth is offers that focus on greater personalization and quality of experience, especially for high-demand services such as HD video. Almost a half of the biggest spenders of services (48 percent) told us they would be willing to pay more to have access to a bundled plan.”

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