The Communications Market Report: United Kingdom

Text-based communications are surpassing traditional phone calls or meeting face to face as the most frequent ways of keeping in touch for UK adults.

The findings were revealed when adults were asked what methods they used at least once a day to communicate with friends and family.

The average UK consumer now sends 50 texts per week which has more doubled in four years with over 150 billion text messages sent in 2011.

Almost another ninety minutes per week is spent accessing social networking sites and e-mail, or using a mobile to access the internet, while for the first time ever time spent on calls on both fixed and mobile phones has declined.

Ofcom's Communications Market Report 2012 shows that traditional forms of communications are declining in popularity, with the overall time spent talking on the phone falling by 5% in 2011.
This reflects a 10% fall in the volume of calls from landlines, and for the first time ever, a fall in the volume of mobile calls (by just over 1%) in 2011.

Teenagers and young adults are leading these changes in communication habits, increasingly socialising with friends and family online and through text messages despite saying they prefer to talk face to face.

These changes also reflect the rapid increase in ownership of internet connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones.

Tablet ownership has jumped from 2% to 11% in 12 months, while one in ten UK adults now has an e-reader.

Two fifths of UK adults now own a smartphone, with the same proportion saying their phone is the most important device for accessing the internet.

Smartphones are also affecting people's shopping habits, encouraging online bargain hunting or Robo (Research offline buy online) shopping with over half of smartphone users claiming to use their phone in some way when out shopping. 

Internet connected 'smart TVs' are also growing in popularity with 5% of UK households now owning one, giving consumers the ability to 'Turf' - both watch TV and surf the web .

The report reveals that UK households now own on average three different types of internet-enabled device such as a laptop, smartphone or internet-enabled games console with 15% owning six or more devices.

James Thickett, Ofcom's Director of Research, said: 'Our research reveals that in just a few short years, new technology has fundamentally changed the way that we communicate. Talking face to face or on the phone are no longer the most common ways for us to interact with each other.

'In their place, newer forms of communications are emerging which don't require us to talk to each other especially among younger age groups. This trend is set to continue as technology advances and we move further into the digital age.'

 Download Introduction and Key Points

 Download section 1

 Download full document 

 Internet use and attitudes: 2012 Metrics Bulletin

 Rise in Text Based Communications - survey data tables (PDF & CSV Zip file)

Viewers watched an average of four hours per day in 2011 up from 3.7 hours in 2004.

Over a third (37%) of UK adults with home internet watch online catch-up TV.

Some 5% of UK households now own an internet connected smart TV

More than one third (35%) of TVs sold in the UK in the first quarter of 2012 were either super-large (33 to 42) or jumbo sized (43 and over). This compares with just 1% of TVs of these sizes that were sold in 2001.

Total UK TV industry revenues increased by 4.9% year on year in 2011, reaching 12.3bn. This was driven by increases in subscriptions (up 8.3%) and advertising (up 2.1%).

 Download this section

 Download full document 

UK radio listeners listened to an average of 22.5 hours of radio each week, up by 24 minutes on 2010.

Listening to the radio on digital devices has increased to 29.2% of total listening, with DAB accounting for two thirds of this.

More than four in ten UK adults say they own a DAB radio set, a 4.4% year-on-year increase.

BBC Radio 4 Extra was the most popular digital-only station, reaching 1.5 million listeners in the first quarter of 2012.

Total UK radio industry revenues reached 1.2bn in 2011, an increase of 3.5% year on year.

 Download this section

 Download full document 

Eight out of 10 people in the UK had access to the internet in the first quarter of 2012.

Average time online per month per internet user stood at 23.5 hours for 2011.

Two thirds of internet users have accessed Facebook.

Social networking sites are increasingly being used to navigate online; Facebook generates almost a quarter of all referred traffic to YouTube (23.7%) in contrast to Googles 32.3%.

Tablet ownership has jumped from 2% to 11% in 12 months

Spend on internet advertising is greater than any other category of advertising, at 4.8bn in 2011, against 4.2bn for TV and 3.9bn for press.

 Download this section

 Download full document 

Lady on the phone

Two fifths of UK adults now own a smartphone, with the same proportion saying their phone is the most important device for accessing the internet.

The average Briton now sends 50 texts per week

The average cost of making a mobile voice call fell to broadly the same level as a fixed line call in 2011.

For the first time, over half (52%) of all call volumes were made from a mobile phone.

The total number of fixed broadband connections passed 20 million for the first time in 2011, with over 5 million mobile broadband connections.

Total UK telecoms revenues fell by 1.9% in 2011 to 39.7bn, driven by a fall in wholesale revenues.

 Download this section

 Download full document 


Almost half of residential postal users in the UK said they used First Class stamps all of the time in 2011.

This is despite only one in ten saying that all of their mail needed to arrive the day following posting.

Post is still the preferred way of sending a greeting, such as for a birthday card, with 58% of UK adults doing this.

Claimed use of post has fallen in the past two years, with 30% of adults saying they use it less. UK adults say they send an average of 3.2 letters or cards a month.

UK postal revenues increased for the first time in four years, to 6.7bn in 2011.

Total mail volumes continued to fall, by 25% between 2006 and 2011.

 Download this section

 Download full document