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UK users prioritise comms spend in recession

UK consumers rank their communications services among the most important elements of their lives, refusing to sacrifice them during times of economic constraint, according to a new report from UK watchdog Ofcom.

While surveyed users would be willing to cut back on holidays (47 per cent), eating out and home improvement (both 41 per cent), less than one fifth (19 per cent) were prepared to rein in their spend on mobile communications. Broadband connectivity (16 per cent) and subscription television (ten per cent) were even more highly prized.

But consumers are not profligate with their communications spend, squeezing their providers for the best deal, Ofcom said. The benefits of multiplay offerings for carriers are clear in the UK, with 46 per cent of users surveyed during the first three months of 2009 taking two or more services from one operator. This is up from 39 per cent for the same period a year ago.

There were broadband connections to 68 per cent of UK households at the end of March, up from 58 per cent in Q1 2008. Meanwhile mobile broadband is gaining traction as well, with more than 250,000 signups in May this year, up from 139,000 in 2008.

SIM-only mobile phone deals are also increasingly popular, accounting for 20 per cent of new contracts since September last year. 70 per cent of those surveyed said they would sooner keep their existing handset to save money than upgrade to a new one. And while some 25 per cent of new mobile contracts in the first three months of the year were for one month only (typically a characteristic of SIM-only contracts), the economic downturn has also generated an increase in 24-month contracts, which offer lower monthly fees.

There are now almost 77 million mobile users in the UK, Ofcom said, an annual increase of three million.


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