The average household spent £83.56 a month on telecommunication services (broadband, phone and mobile) in 2018, down from £91.27 a month in 2017. That means 3.3% of our annual monthly spending is going toward connectivity.
But in return we’re getting more and more data. Britons are gobbling up 240 GB of data a month on fixed line broadband connections, up from 190 GB a month in 2017. And mobile data users were equally greedy, consuming 2.9 GB each of 3G and 4G data. That’s up from 1.9 GB in 2017, 1.3 GB in 2016, and 0.9 GB in 2015.
Much of that growth was driven by video streaming. 58% of people watch on-demand video content, up from 53% the year before. Many of them are tuning into Netflix and Amazon Prime, where subscriptions rose. Viewership of broadcaster’s free catch-up services, like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, flatlined and even fell in some age brackets.
To sustain their streaming habits, people are subscribing to faster internet connections. The number of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connections finally overtook the number of standard, copper wire broadband connections last year, as the number of superfast connections increased by 17%. 59% of all internet connections in Britain are now superfast.
Meanwhile half a million premises were connected to ultrafast full-fibre networks, and availability of those connections rose to 7% of premises, up from just 3%.
All those superfast and ultrafast connections drove up the average domestic fixed line broadband speed, by 18% to 54.2 Mbps.
This is all according to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report, released Thursday, studying uptake, costs, and use of telecommunications services.
The report found that, when we can pry our eyes away from our latest binge-watch, the ways we communicate with each other (most about Game of Thrones) have transformed too.
79% of British adults now own a smartphone. A similar portion of households still have a landline connection, but the number is down by 0.2 million (1%). And, given that standard and fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband connections require a phone line, being connected to the landline network doesn’t imply that phone is ever used. The volume of call minutes originating from landlines dropped by 17%. The decline has been so steep that losses in revenues from fixed voice services contributed to a 4% decline in the revenue in fixed telecoms services year on year.
But overall Britons are less talkative than before, preferring to send messages. And we’re increasingly doing this over messaging apps and social media rather than traditional SMS and MMS messages. We sent five million fewer text messages in 2018 than the year before. But as we shifted to services like WhatsApp, our data consumption has increased.
Mobile networks have become faster and more reliable to accommodate all that messaging and on-the-go video streaming. As the mobile networks launch 5G services, 72% of our current connections are to 4G networks, rather than 3G, up from 66% the year before.
But we’re paying less for all this speed and availability, and that’s driven down revenues in the telecoms industry: from £36.9 billion in 2017 to £33.84 billion in 2018. Most of this fall came from a decline in revenue in the retail mobile sector.