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Ofcom: the internet is for coffin dodgers and girls

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The unstoppable rise of the internet as the umbrella medium for communications and entertainment is gathering steam, according to Ofcom's annual industry report.

Across the whole population we're spending on average 36 minutes online every day - a 158 per cent increase on 2002. The 16 per cent of over-65s who surf manage to clock up an average of 42 hours a week. There's been a shift towards a more feminine internet too, particularly among the advertiser sweetspot of 25 to 34-year olds. In this age group 55 per cent of hours online are spent by women.

Pensioners who use the web are online more than any other age group. More than three quarters of 11-year-olds have their own TV, mobile phone and games console, and seven per cent of 10-year-olds have a webcam for some reason.

Elsewere, the report talks up a digital boom in Britain, and so Ofcom's importance as a watchdog. The average household actually spent less on communications services in 2006 - £92.65 per month - compared to £94.03 in 2005. Ofcom reckons this means consumers are getting more from the outlay by increased use of VoIP cutting phone bills and 40 per cent of the population saving on bundled services.

At April 2007 53 per cent of homes had a broadband line. The rise of ADSL is noted in the report: cable broadband now accounts for only 23.5 per cent of the market, compared to more than half in 2002. Average headline download speeds in the last year have doubled to 4.6MBit/s this June. Unbundled lines accounted for nine per cent of connections in March this year, a threefold increase in 12 months.

The tenuous link most advertised broadband speeds have with reality is recognised by the authors, though: "UK operators do not currently seem to see a business case for rapid investment in access networks which can deliver higher speed residential services, such as fibre to the home (FTTH) or fibre to the cabinet."

BT's recent announcement it would deploy FTTH in newbuild sites could be a sign of that changing, they optimistically note.

The report should give TV execs pause for thought. Advertising revenues fell last year for the first time since 2002. Nearly 80 per cent of PVR owners are using the kit to fast forward through ads and overall time spent watching TV dipped by four per cent on 2005 to an average of three hours 36 minutes daily.

The whole 330 page tome is here. ®

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