More Than A Quarter Of All UK Mobile Connections Are 4G

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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Better coverage boosts 4G adoption, but Ofcom says lack of unlimited data and reliability issues mean many still rely on fixed broadband

There are now at least 23.6 million 4G subscribers in the UK, accounting for 28 percent of all UK mobile connections (including M2M) in the UK, according to Ofcom.

The regulator says increased coverage has helped drive takeup, with 90 percent of UK premises able to receive at least one 4G service (EE) and 42 percent able to access all four operator’s LTE networks. Ofcom expects at least 98 premises to be covered by 2017, due to the conditions of O2’s 800MHz licence.

The increased availability of 4G has led the smartphone to become the most popular device to access the Internet, with the amount of data consumed by UK mobile users increasing from 283 petabytes in 2013 to 533 petabytes in 2014.

4G growth

O2 4GThis is having a knock-on effect on call and text volumes as consumers flock to over-the-top (OTT) services like WhatsApp and Skype.

The number of text messages sent during 2014 fell from 110 billion to 129 billion and although the number of voice calls increased marginally from 135 billion minutes to 137 billion, fixed voice calls fell by 12.6 percent from 82 billion minutes to 80 billion minutes.

However Ofcom says there is still work to be done, with 2G networks covering 98 percent of the UK – leaving around 500,000 people without a connection.

The government has secured a legally-binding commitment from EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to invest a combined £5 billion into their respective network infrastructures, complementing the publicly-funded £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP).

Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report (CMR) also notes that although 4G speeds are rapidly approaching those of fixed broadband, most people do not use mobile as a primary form of access.

This, it says, is due to reliability issues and the fact few operators offer unlimited data packages. Just two percent of consumers use mobile as their sole connection, although this figure is higher for young people and those in rented accommodation.

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