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Britons Rapidly Adopt Digital

The U.K. is going digital, with greater adoption of digital services and formats, increased digital network coverage and cheaper digital devices.

London, UK–Britain is experiencing explosive growth in its digital markets, with 50,000 new broadband subscribers every week, according to Ofcom’s Communications Market 2004, a report on trends within the UK’s radio, television and telecommunications sectors in 2003-4.

Other key trends identified include:

More time is being spent with electronics.

Time spent online increased eight-fold (average of two hours a week on dial-up in 1999 to a reported 16 hours a week in broadband households in mid 2004). Television viewing increased by two percent.

More money is being spent.

As usage rises, encouraged in part by falling prices, UK consumers are also committing more of their household spending to communications services.

Residential customer spending on fixed, mobile and internet services increased by 1.3 billion in 2003.

Average spending per household on television rose from 2.68 per week in 1999 to 4.36 per week in 2003.

More digital adoption.

The UK is going digital, with greater adoption of digital services and formats (such as MP3s and DVDs), increased digital network coverage and cheaper digital devices:

Digital television is available to almost the entire UK via satellite, cable or terrestrial means 53 percent of households already have at least one digitally enabled set in their home.

DAB digital radio covers over 85 percent of the UK population, with local services available in 47 areas. Digital radio via other platforms such as digital television or the internet is available across the whole UK.

Broadband services are currently available to 88.7 percent of households and take-up is growing rapidly.

More choices are becoming available.

Lower barriers to entry for new competitors, increasing innovation and the emergence of new technologies are broadening choice for consumers.

Digital satellite, cable and terrestrial have dramatically expanded the range of services available. In the last decade, the number of television channels has risen from 56 to 271. The number of analogue radio services has risen from 218 to 325. In addition there are 130 commercial DAB digital radio stations, of which 32 are digital only; 14 stations previously only available in one region on analogue are now also available on digital in additional regions.

In 2002 there were no digital terrestrial television receivers available for less than 60; in 2003 consumers could choose from 18 different models below 60. The cheapest now costs 21.

Greater competition in the residential fixed-line voice market has brought in new entrants and helped drive down prices by an average of 7.1 per cent in real terms in 2002-3.

The report also identified a number of other significant trends, particularly in the further development of broadband and the mobile telecoms sector.


There are now almost 50,000 new broadband subscribers every week (DSL and cable), up from around 40,000 additions a week in late 2003.

The total number of UK broadband subscribers is now similar to the number in France and Germany.

Ofcom estimates that the five million broadband subscriber milestone will be passed in mid-September 2004.

More than one-third of Internet households now have a broadband connection.

Dial-up numbers are declining more slowly than the increase in broadband connections; more consumers with no prior Internet connection are going straight to broadband for their first experience of being online at home.

Ed Richards, Ofcoms senior partner, strategy and market developments, said, For the first time ever, subscription revenue is greater than advertising revenue in the television industry; in telecoms, revenues from mobile have outstripped those from residential fixed-line telephony.

Richards added, The report also reveals the extent to which the U.K. is becoming a digital nation, with widespread availability of digital networks of all kinds. This is to be welcomed; the advance of digital technology brings increased consumer choice and greater innovation, through broadband access, digital television, music downloads, digital radio and more.

The Communications Market report will be published annually. It collates data from numerous sources including Ofcom’s own research. It is available online at