The Communications Market Report: Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland becoming a nation of gadget lovers

Northern Ireland is becoming a nation of gadget lovers with the number of people owning smartphones reaching 55% while tablet ownership has leapt to 45%.

Alongside Wales, Northern Ireland has the highest rate of tablet ownership in the UK - up from 29% a year ago and 9% in 2012.

Smartphone ownership has risen from 45% to 55% in the past year, with the biggest increase among people in rural areas.

Smartphones are most popular among young people (aged 16-34) while tablet computers are more popular with older users (35-54).

Linked to the take-up of these mobile devices is the number of people accessing the internet on the move, rising 6 percentage points in the past year to 51% and helped by significant improvements in 3G mobile coverage.

The proportion of premises in areas with outdoor coverage from all four national 3G networks has increased by 20.2 percentage points to 82.1% from a year ago, driven by significant investment by network providers.

James Stinson, Regulatory Affairs Manager at Ofcom Northern Ireland, said: 'Just a few years ago it was the norm to sit at a desk to go online but the rapid rise in smartphone ownership means that more than half of us now access the internet on the move.

'Elsewhere, Northern Ireland still ranks best in the UK for superfast broadband availability while there have been noticeable and welcome improvements in both 2G and 3G coverage over the last year.'

The report also gives an insight into how people use communications devices.

Social media continues to be popular, with more than half of internet users in Northern Ireland (58%) accessing Facebook, Twitter and similar services online, either at home or on the move. Sixty-eight per cent say they use the web for purchasing goods or services, up from 60% last year.

Northern Ireland has a higher level of pay-TV take-up. Two-thirds (67%) of homes have Sky, Virgin Media, BT Vision or paid-for top-up services, compared with 62% for the UK as a whole.

The research also highlights the popularity of Republic of Ireland (RoI) TV channels in Northern Ireland. Around one in four people watch RTÉ One every week, with smaller numbers watching RTÉ Two, TG4 and TV3.

This year's report also provides an insight into the media we consume. The Digital Day research shows consumers in Northern Ireland spend almost as much time consuming media every day (8 hours and 29 minutes) as they do sleeping.

Four and a half hours of this is spent watching television. However, consumers also spent the equivalent of 2 hours and 14 minutes communicating - by email, text, social networks, instant messaging and voice calls. A further two hours a day were spent 'listening' to radio or other audio. Significantly, consumers in Northern Ireland claim to spend more media time on their mobile phone (16%) compared to the UK as a whole (12%).

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Annex A: Adults’ media literacy in the nations

watching tv

People in Northern Ireland spend an average of four hours per day watching TV.

Half of all homes (52%) have satellite as their main TV platform, higher than the UK average (41%).

More people use the television for local news than anywhere else in the UK - 64% of cited TV as their main source of local news.

Total spend by the BBC and UTV on nations programming in Northern Ireland was up 15% year on year.

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DJs

Listeners now have access to 31 digital radio services following the extension of the national commercial digital multiplex, Digital One, to Northern Ireland.

Almost a third of households now own a DAB radio set - a year-on-year increase of six percentage points - but take-up remains lower than other UK nations.

BBC Ulster has the highest reach of a BBC nations' service, listened to by 36% of adults in Northern Ireland.

BBC spend on radio per head of population was highest in Northern Ireland. The total spend by BBC Radio Ulster/BBC Radio Foyle was £23.6m in 2013-14.

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using laptop

Half of consumers (51%) in Northern Ireland access the internet on their mobile phone.

Tablet take-up increased by 16 percentage points over the past year to 45%.

One in five adults (20%) in Northern Ireland use an e-reader to read books, magazines, and other text downloaded from the internet, up from 12% last year.

Internet users in Northern Ireland claim to spend significantly less time online each week (13.8 hours) than the UK average (16.9 hours)

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woman on phone

Availability of superfast broadband is highest in the UK. By June 2014, 95% of premises were served by the networks used to provide superfast broadband services.

Smartphone ownership has risen from 45% to 55% in the past year, with the biggest increase among people in rural areas.

The proportion of premises in areas with outdoor coverage from all four national 3G networks has increased by 20.2 percentage points to 82.1%.

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postbox closeup

Nine out of ten people in Northern Ireland (89%) are satisfied with Royal Mail compared to 86% across the UK overall.

But almost half (47%) of adults thought the cost of sending a letter to the Republic of Ireland (87p at the time of the survey) was poor value for money.

One in three residents in Northern Ireland did not send any items through the post in the past month.

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