Internet usage doubled since 2005, Ofcom says

Ofcom has released its annual summary of online activity, and revealed the average internet user now spends more than twice as much time online every week than those in 2005 did.  Nearly 90% of all adults in the UK are now using the internet, the regulator said.

The Media Use and Attitudes 2015 report stated internet users over the age of 16 spend more than 20.5 hours per week on the internet, compared to just under 10 hours in 2005. The news comes as little surprise considering the birth of the smartphone, the tablet and various internet connected devices, such as smart TVs, which have hit the market in the intervening decade.

Ofcom reckons the tablet has had a significant impact on how consumers access the internet and entertainment, such as gaming. According to the report, access to the internet via tablets has risen from 5% to 39% of adults in the UK; while 15% of adults now use tablets for gaming. The smartphone is now the primary device used for gaming, with more than a quarter of mobile users playing games every week, compared to 17% playing on games consoles. 22% of users now game online, up from 10% in 2005.

The rise of the smartphone has led to a surge in instant messaging on mobile social media platforms, such as Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp; a well-documented concern for mobile operators amid declines in SMS traffic and revenue. 42% of all consumers are now using instant messaging on mobile, with 80% of the 25-34 year old demographic now conducting conversations over OTT platforms.

What may be considered a relief for operators is that the percentage of mobile phone users sending text messages is up to 90%, although Ofcom didn’t specify whether the term “text message” referenced both SMS and instant messaging, or just the former.

The report appears to have quantified the trends we already knew: internet usage is rising; instant messaging is very popular, particularly in the youthful demographics; smartphones and tablets are important; and nearly everyone nowadays uses the internet. It’s surprising that Ofcom only reported 20 hours per week of internet access on the whole, which seems a little on the low end, especially as that apparently includes internet access while at work.

To gain some clarity on the report, contacted Ofcom to understand what constitutes internet access, and whether video on demand services or social media browsing formed part of the definition.

An Ofcom spokesperson clarified the terminology for, and said: “[Internet access] is their interpretation of internet use and it’s their definition. So it could include things like using Facebook, social media or online video. What they’re telling us is it’s over 20 hours per week, and compared to 10 years ago, that’s more than doubled.”

For the report, Ofcom interviewed 1,890 adults aged 16 and over who use the internet as part of its research. There’s a handy infographic below.

Ofcom Media Use and Attitudes Infographic

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