Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 10:41 UK

Technology 'priority for Britons'

iPhone in hand
The number of people watching catch-up television online is also growing

Britons are more willing to cut back on holidays and meals out than on spending on communication technology during the recession, an Ofcom review suggests.

The watchdog's annual report says spending on mobiles, the internet and TV is regarded as a higher priority than almost anything except food.

In a poll of 862 people, over 40% said they would save on holidays and eating out and 19% chose spending on mobiles.

Ofcom's Peter Phillips said people were "more canny" about paying for services.

The study also highlights a major rise in the use of social networking websites.

Some 19m people in the UK, 50% of internet users, visit Facebook, spending an average of six hours a month on the site, it says.

This is an increase from four hours in May 2008.

David Harris: 'Without my mobile phone and the internet it will be difficult to find work'

The report said the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds who said they had a social networking site profile grew by six percentage points in a year to 46%, while the figure also rose among 35 to 54-year-olds to 35%.

But the proportion of 15 to 24-year-olds with such a profile dropped from 55% in the first quarter of 2008 to 50% in the first quarter of 2009, the study added.

Ofcom researchers asked consumers where they were likely to be cutting back on spending during the recession, as part of its communications market report

Of those asked, 47% said going out for dinner, 41% said DIY and 41% holidays.

This compared with 19% who said they would cut back on mobile phone spending, 16% who said TV subscriptions and 10% who highlighted broadband services.

The report says the trend is supported by the fact communications are costing less, with longer, cheaper mobile phone contracts and the bundling of services such as television and internet at reduced prices.

Ofcom's Peter Phillips said: "Despite the recession, people are spending more time watching TV, using their mobile phone or accessing the internet.

"They would rather do without meals out or holidays than give up their phone, broadband or pay TV package..

OFCOM STUDY FINDINGS
50% of internet users use Facebook
There were 2.6m Twitter users in May 2009
Men are more likely to watch catch-up TV
Leeds has the highest take-up rate for mobile broadband (29%)
Mobile broadband take up was lowest in the Scottish Borders (3%)

"Meanwhile, we are becoming more canny about the way we pay for these services.

"Almost half of us economise by taking a bundle of communications services from a single supplier, while one-fifth opt for cheaper mobile contracts which don't include an expensive new phone."

Catch-up TV boost

The report's other findings include:

  • In May 2009, consumers spent an average of 25 minutes a day online at home - up from nine minutes in 2004
  • Average household spending on internet services fell in real terms between 2007 and 2008
  • Nearly a quarter of households, 23%, were watching catch-up TV online in 2008, compared with 17% in 2007
  • This was driven by the BBC iPlayer, with 15% of internet users, 5.2 million, watching the service in 2008
  • Overall take up of broadband across the UK reached 68% of households by the end of the first quarter of 2009, up from 58% on the previous year
  • In May of this year there were more than 250,000 new mobile broadband connections, up from 139,000 new connections in May 2008.

Ofcom also published a report into communications in the nations and regions, which showed take up of services was rising rapidly.

Use of broadband in Scotland was up from 53% to 60%, in Northern Ireland take up rose from 52% to 64%, and in Wales from 45% to 58%.

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