OFCOM report shows Northern Ireland a nation of gadget lovers

OFCOM reportNorthern Ireland is becoming a nation of gadget lovers with the number of people owning smartphones reaching 55% while tablet ownership has leapt to 45%, according to Ofcom’s Communications Report for Northern Ireland published today.

Please click here for a full copy of the report.

At 45%, Northern Ireland, along with Wales, 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 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.

Ownership of a DAB radio set has risen to almost a third (30%) of households. This is a year-on-year increase of six percentage points but take-up remains lowest in Northern Ireland within the UK.

This year’s report also provides an insight into the media we consume. The Digital Day research shows consumersin 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%).

How tech savvy are you?

Other research carried out by Ofcom shows a ‘millennium generation’ of 14 and 15 year olds are the most technologically advanced people in the UK. Teens born at the turn of the century are unlikely to have known ‘dial up’ internet and are the first generation to benefit fully from broadband and digital communications.

The study measures knowledge of communications technology to calculate an individual’s ‘Digital Quotient’ score, or ‘DQ’.

It shows that we hit our peak communications technological confidence while we are still in our mid-teens – but this drops gradually up to our sixties and beyond.

Among 16-24s, around nine in ten use a smartphone on a weekly basis and they spend more time on their handsets than anyone else. These younger people are glued to their smartphones for 3 hours 36 minutes each day, nearly three times the 1 hour 22 minutes across all adults.

Take our simplified Digital Quotient taster test to find out your score and get Ofcom advice on how to improve your understanding of communications services.

ofcom logoOther key findings for Northern Ireland

Availability of superfast broadband highest in the UK. By June 2014, 95% of premises in Northern Ireland were served by the NGA (Next Generation Access) networks that are used to provide superfast broadband services. This was above the UK average of 78% and was the highest proportion among the UK nations.

Improving 2G coverage. The proportion of homes in Northern Ireland with outdoor 2G mobile coverage from all three national 2G networks increased by 10.7 percentage points to 91.7% in the year to June 2014.

Increased satisfaction with broadband services. The proportion of users who said that they were ‘very’ satisfied with their fixed broadband speeds increased from 35% to 40% during the year. This improvement was even more marked in rural areas, where 43% of broadband consumers were reported as being very satisfied with their speeds in Q1 2014, compared to 34% in 2013.

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

But not with cross-border prices. When asked to consider the cost of posting a standard letter to the Republic of Ireland (87p at the time of the survey), almost half (47%) of all adults in Northern Ireland perceived this to offer poor value for money (‘very’ or ‘fairly’) compared to around a third (34%) who saw it as good value for money (‘very’ or ‘fairly’).

E-reader take-up. 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.


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