4G uptake has accelerated in the past year according to Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report, which states that during 2014 4G subscriptions soared from 2.7 million to 23.6 million.
What are 4G users doing?
The Ofcom report provides an insight into what 4G mobile users are doing compared with 3G users, and suggests that they go online more frequently, are more attached to their smartphones, and use their mobile devices for more ‘data-heavy’ activities. Some of the trends highlighted in the report include:
- 57% of 4G users access audio-visual content on their smartphones compared with just 40% of smartphone users without 4G
- 55% of 4G users use their smartphone to shop online compared with 35% of smartphone users without 4G
- 55% of 4G users use their smartphone for online banking compared with 33% of smartphone users without 4G
Growth of 4G
There are a number of reasons for the surge in 4G subscriptions over the past year. In March 2014 Three released 4G so all its packages became 4G with no extra charge. This probably accounts for a large number of the 10.2 million new 4G subscriptions in the first quarter of 2014. All the major providers are now offering 4G as a standard part of all their contract packages, so as users’ previous contracts come to an end they now automatically upgrade to 4G contracts. The price gap between 3G and 4G has narrowed significantly, encouraging more people to sign up.
4G coverage increasing
The target for 4G coverage is 98% population coverage by the end of the year, and all networks have been making progress to reach that target. In May 2015 almost 90% of UK premises were in the 4G coverage area of at least one 4G operator. However less than half (42.5%) were covered by all four of the major operators. EE had the highest levels of coverage at 81%, followed by O2 at 66%, Vodafone at 65%, and Three at 53%.
4G speeds a major factor
The report compared 4G speeds with 3G speeds and discovered that average 4G web browsing speeds were approximately 30% quicker than 3G in the fourth quarter of 2014. The average 4G download speed was 14.7Mbit per second, almost two and half times that of 3G at 5.9Mbit per second. The average 4G upload speed was 13.6Mbit per second more than eight times that of 3G at 1.6Mbit per second. The highest satisfaction levels reported by respondents upgrading from 3G related to speed, with 72% reporting satisfaction.
James Thickett, Ofcom Director of Research, said: “4G has supercharged our smartphones, helping people do everything from the weekly shop to catching up with friends with a face-to-face video call. For the first time, smartphones have overtaken laptops as the UK’s most popular internet device and are now the hub of our daily lives.”
The report also highlights how users interact with their 4G phones. Two thirds of people now own a smartphone and use it to access the internet for almost two hours every day. Smartphones have now overtaken laptops as the most important device for accessing the internet. While four in ten people admit to checking their smartphone at the dinner table, 55% still believe it is rude to use their smartphone over dinner. A third of adults (34%) check their smartphone within five minutes of waking up, and this increases to 49% for the 18-24 age group.