Key developments of the Telecoms Market according to Ofcom

  • 4G take-up gains momentum. This key market development focuses on 4G services in the UK over the last year; including operators’ own estimates of population coverage, the number of consumers with 4G plans, how consumers use 4G services and how satisfied they are with different aspects of their service. EE launched the UK’s first commercial 4G service in October 2012, and since EE has reported actual download speeds with 4G ranging from 8 to 10Mbit/s, with the possibility of receiving up to 40Mbit/s, allowing consumers to surf the web and download apps at faster speeds, and also to stream higher quality video content.
  • Availability and take-up of superfast broadband. This key market development focuses on the increases in availability and take-up of superfast broadband and the drivers behind the changes. It examines the price premium required to upgrade to superfast services and operators’ shares of subscribers. BT Openreach’s fibre deployment continued successfully through 2013 and it reached its fibre roll-out target of two-thirds of UK homes and businesses (a total of 19 million premises) in Q1 2014, a year earlier than originally planned.
  • Consumers’ use of voice over IP services. Here we look at consumers’ take-up and use of voice over IP (VoIP) services, including how often VoIP is used, what type of calls it is used for, the devices used to make VoIP calls and what VoIP users consider the main advantages and disadvantages of using the service. Traditional voice calls are carried over the PSTN network, a circuit switched network that allocates a dedicated circuit to each call. Internet protocol (IP) data networks, such as the internet, operate in a different way, splitting data into packets which are then sent individually across the network. Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology allows voice and video calls to be delivered over IP networks. The main benefit to consumers of using VoIP services relates to price. As
    calls are routed over the open internet, VoIP providers are isolated from costs relating to running the IP network over which calls are transmitted,86 and they are able to pass these savings on in the form of lower call charges. Growing take-up in recent years of fixed and mobile data access services, smartphones and tablets with integrated VoIP apps has coincided with increasing use of VoIP services among UK consumers. According to Ofcom’s consumer research, the proportion of adults who said that they were users of VoIP services almost tripled in the five years to Q1 2014; up from 12% to 35%.
  • WiFi use inside and outside the home. Eight in ten adults access the internet using a WiFi connection. This key market development story looks at consumer use of WiFi, focusing on WiFi use outside the home. It looks at where and how frequently consumers use public WiFi services, what they use them for and their concerns regarding accessing the internet over public connections. Laptops and smartphones are the devices most frequently used to connect to WiFi. Across all locations, the devices that were most frequently used to connect to WiFi services by WiFi users in March/April 2014 were a laptop/netbook (64%) or a smartphone (58%). Two in five (40%) accessed WiFi services via a tablet device, a quarter (25%) used a desktop computer and just over one in ten (12%) used an eBook reader. Cafes, bars, hotels and restaurants were the most frequently-cited public places to access WiFi, with 64% of those who access WiFi in public places saying they accessed it at cafes/bars and 41% at hotels and restaurants. Around a third of adults who access WiFi in public places said they accessed it at shops/retail outlets (35%) and about one in three said they did so inside libraries/public buildings (32%), inside airports/stations (31%) and outside in general, e.g. in the street (29%). The majority of people who use WiFi outside the home are not concerned about how secure it is. Most people who used WiFi outside the home were not concerned about how secure it was; three-quarters (77%) disagreed with the statement “I am concerned about security when accessing WiFi outside the home” and 75% disagreed with the statement “There are certain things that I wouldn’t access/do on the internet when connected to public WiFi”

Open WiFi networks
Public WiFi services are typically provided without any encryption, that would prevent eavesdropping or modification of traffic conveyed between the user’s device and the internet. WiFi hotspots operating without encryption are frequently referred to as ‘open’ WiFi networks, and these are convenient for users as they allow any device easy connectivity without needing a password or a key in advance. A drawback of ‘open’ WiFi networks is that a malicious person could monitor open WiFi connectivity and, in rare cases, observe sensitive data such as users’ IDs and passwords.

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