UK consumers enjoy 'advanced' digital communications

The UK is one of the world's most advanced countries in terms of digital communications, an Ofcom report says. The telecoms regulator said people in the UK watched more TV and sent more texts than people in many other countries, but had slower broadband.

The UK remains the country with the highest proportion of households with digital TV on their main set - at 88%.

The Ofcom study compared the UK with 12 countries including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the US.

The Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Japan and the Irish Republic were among the other countries included in the study.

The report also looked at the communications markets in four "emerging countries," namely Brazil, Russia, India and China.

It found the UK had seen the highest average rise in TV viewing in 2008, up by 3.2% to 3.8 hours a day.

The average time spent watching TV was 3.5 hours per day across the European countries surveyed, although average viewing time fell in France and Germany.

The UK's viewing figures were slightly lower than those for Italy, Poland and Spain.

And people in the US watched the most television in 2008 - an average of 4.6 hours a day, which was up 1.8% from 2007.

The survey also found that the UK was the second highest texting nation in the world, with the volume of outgoing messages estimated to be 83 billion in the year.

That was second only to the US, where 830 billion text messages were sent.

UK consumers also enjoy the cheapest prices for mobile phones and broadband, while the country also leads the world in online advertising.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said the report showed UK consumers had benefited from competition.

"Innovation means that the UK is well placed in the take up and availability of digital services," he added.

However, the UK's broadband speeds were not impressive when compared with other countries, Ofcom said.

Only 10% of UK homes could connect at over 8 megabits (Mbps) a second, compared with 37% in the Netherlands.

People in Sweden and France also had much faster speeds than those in the UK.

Network speeds

An Ofcom spokesman said the regulator had set out a framework to encourage next generation broadband in the UK.

"We are pleased to see that some companies have already started investing in high speed broadband networks," he said.

A report earlier this month from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned that the UK risked falling behind rivals if it did not invest in fast broadband.

It placed the UK 21st out of 30 countries in terms of network speeds.

The OECD suggested that countries that invested in fibre networks were likely to see the best economic returns in other areas.

The UK's broadband population currently stands at nearly 18 million and take-up of the technology is good but there are concerns about how quickly the UK is rolling out super-fast services.

The UK government would like everyone in the country to have access to broadband speeds of 2Mbps by 2012.

And it wants to see super-fast broadband available to 90% of the country by the end of 2017.

Superfast broadband is generally regarded as speeds of 50Mbps or above.

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