Ofcom Study Reveals Extent Of Our Tech Addiction

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Its good to talk? Not according to Ofcom study, as messaging apps overtake number of mobile calls

The true extent of this country’s addiction to technology has been revealed in the ‘Communications Market report’ from the regulator Ofcom.

The findings of the report make for some depressing reading, after it found that half of those surveyed said life would be “boring” without the internet, and smartphone owners check their devices every 12 minutes.

It comes after the addictive nature of technology was flagged in a new campaign called ‘The Truth about Tech’ earlier this year.

Digital dependency

Despite this, Ofcom’s latest report does however make for interesting reading, as it shows that revenue from telecoms, TV, radio and postal services totalled £54.7bn in 2017, which is 2 percent lower than 2016.

This shows the challenges these industries are now contending with.

The Ofcom report also found that people claimed to spend a total of one day a week online (24 hours), more than twice as much as in 2011.

And for the first time this year, women spend more time online than men.

Most adults apparently acknowledged the value of being connected, with three-quarters agreeing that being online helps them maintain personal relationships. But they also acknowledge its drawbacks, such as interrupting face-to-face communications with others.

29 percent of people felt lost without Internet access, and 34 percent feel cut off with internet access.

The report found that smartphones have become the most popular internet-connected device (78 percent of UK adults use one), and there are now more mobile phones in the UK than people.

“Over the last decade, people’s lives have been transformed by the rise of the smartphone, together with better access to the internet and new services,” said Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence.

“Whether it’s working flexibly, keeping up with current affairs or shopping online, we can do more on the move than ever before,” said Macrae. “But while people appreciate their smartphone as their constant companion, some are finding themselves feeling overloaded when online, or frustrated when they’re not.”

The report also found that ownership of tablets (58 percent of UK households) and games consoles (44 percent of UK adults) has plateaued in the last three years, but smart TVs were in 42 percent of households in 2017, up from 5 percent in 2012.

And interestingly one in five households (20 percent) have wearable tech (smart watches, fitness trackers).

In the TV sector, it seems that times are tough as total broadcaster revenue was down by 4 percent in 2017 to just £13.6bn in total. This is because in part down to declining advertising revenue and the proportion of the licence fee attributed to TV.

And people are watching less TV than before, nine minutes less since 2016 to be precise, across all age groups under 65.

Digital (DAB) radio listening is up to 50.9 percent, and radio revenue was up to £1.3bn, the highest level in the last five years.

The Ofcom study found that 13 percent of UK households used a smart speaker in 2018; three-quarters of these were Amazon devices.

Universal access

The Ofcom study also found that nine in ten people had access to the internet in the home in 2018, and the majority (62 percent) of time spent on the internet was on mobile devices.

And the number of ADSL (copper) fixed broadband connections was overtaken by fibre connections in 2017. Despite this, telecoms revenue fell by 1 percent to £35.6bn in 2017, with retail landline and data revenues unchanged during the year and retail mobile revenues declining.

But our love of data continues, as UK consumers used an average of 190 GB per fixed broadband line in June 2017 (up from 132 GB in June 2016) and 1.9 GB per active mobile subscription in 2017 (up from 1.3 GB).

The Ofcom report comes amid growing concern at the amount of time children in particular are spending using tech.

Earlier this year Apple CEO Tim Cook urged parents to stop children using social media. He has banned his nephew for example from using social networks.

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