The Communications Market Report: Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland embraces online world

Northern Ireland is increasingly embracing the online world, with more people than ever before using social networking, watching catch-up TV, and making calls over the internet.

More people also have an MP3 player or an iPod than anywhere else in the UK, while more than half of homes (52 per cent) have a games console, the highest proportion in the UK.

Five years ago only a quarter of homes in Northern Ireland had broadband.

But take-up now stands at 70 per cent, almost matching the UK average of 71 per cent and well ahead of Scotland and Wales.

The increase in broadband has led to a rise in online activities such as social networking, watching catch-up TV, and making calls over the internet.

Rural consumers are also ahead of their urban neighbours when it comes to the use of many communications services, including broadband, mobile phones and satellite television.

However, people in Northern Ireland are consistently less satisfied with their home phone, mobile and broadband services than consumers elsewhere in the UK.

Despite this they're less likely to switch provider - only 26 per cent of respondents said they had ever switched broadband provider, compared to 30 per cent across the UK.

Ofcom's Director in Northern Ireland, Denis Wolinski, said: 'This is the fifth year we have produced the Communications Market Report for Northern Ireland.

'Over the last four years not only have we seen Northern Ireland catch up, and in some cases overtake, the rest of the UK in the use of the latest communications services, but we have also seen the report become established as an invaluable reference source for anyone here with an interest in communications.'

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Satellite is the most popular TV platform, with 43 per cent of homes having satellite as their main way of watching television.

Freeview is the next most popular at 28 per cent, with cable at 12 per cent. Only 13 per cent of households still rely on analogue TV on their main set.

People in rural areas are more likely to have satellite television - 51 per cent compared to 40 per cent in urban areas.

Early evening TV news continues to be very popular - UTVs programme attracts the highest audience share of any nations and regions bulletin.

The amount of money spent by the BBC and UTV on television programming - and the number of hours they produced for viewers in Northern Ireland - both fell in the last year.

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More people in Northern Ireland regard radio as their main source of news than anywhere else in the UK.

The BBC spent £18.8m on radio services in 2009/10, an increase of £0.4m (2.2 per cent) year on year, and spend per head was the second highest of the UK nations at around £11.12 per person, just below Wales.

Commercial radio revenue per head was the second highest in the UK.  

Northern Ireland has the lowest take-up of DAB radios in the UK at 22 per cent compared to a UK figure of 38 per cent.

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Seventy per cent of homes in Northern Ireland now have broadband - up 6 per cent from last year and putting Northern Ireland on a par with the UK as a whole.

Broadband continues to be more popular in rural than urban areas - (72 per cent compared to 69 per cent).

Over a third of people in Northern Ireland (36 per cent) now use social networking sites, 38 per cent watch TV online and 15 per cent of households make phone or video calls over the internet - all significant increases on 2009.

Four in ten households in the Belfast area use the internet for banking.

The use of mobile broadband has increased by 6 per cent from last year and is now used in 14 per cent of all homes.

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Lady on the phone

Almost one in five households (18 per cent) now relies on a mobile phone rather than a traditional fixed-line home phone.

Fixed-line ownership in Northern Ireland is down 6 per cent from last year.

Consumers in rural areas are also more likely to own a mobile phone than their urban neighbours (90 per cent compared to 87 per cent).

Since 2006 Northern Ireland has seen a 59 per cent increase in the proportion of households connected to an unbundled exchange - an exchange where another telecoms provider is able to provide its service over BT phone lines. This is the highest growth rate among the UK nations over this period.

2G mobile population coverage in Northern Ireland reached 89 per cent in 2010 (UK average 97 per cent).

But coverage for 3G was only 40 per cent, well below the UK average of 87 per cent and represented the lowest figure among the UK nations.

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