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Ofcom claims UK leads on digital communications

Irish are the talkiest and Yanks watch most TV

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Ofcom has published the third of their annual reports comparing the UK digital communications industry to those found in nearby countries, and concludes that we're the most advanced - though the Irish make more mobile calls and the Americans watch more TV.

The International Communications Market Report covers every aspect of the digital industry, and compares the UK to France, Germany, Italy, USA, Canada and Japan - as well as throwing in data from Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland every now and then - comparing everything from digital TV watching to the use of long distance telephony.

Among the countries sampled the Irish use their mobiles the most, clocking up 179 minutes a month supplemented by 154 text messages, compared to 136 minutes and 81 texts in the UK - even the Americans are more text-heavy than us these days, with 107 texts a month sent by US subscribers.

Mobe use is growing everywhere except in Japan, where talking on a mobile phone has actually declined by two per cent over the last 12 months. This is attributed to the way that Japanese operators maintain per-minute charges on calls, pushing users towards fixed-rate services such as email and VoIP.

But the report notes that while voice traffic keeps rising, the revenue it generates remains pretty static. Germany is the most striking example, with call volumes up 20 per cent and revenue actually down five per cent. In the UK operators struggled to increase revenue by a third of the jump in usage.

The UK does lead the world in digital TV deployments, with 86 per cent of homes turned digital. Of course, we've started turning off analogue signals, so it's hardly surprising that homes are going digital faster here than in countries where analogue is still an option.

Equally unsurprising is the UK lead in DAB, with 34 per cent of UK residents surveyed claiming to personally own a DAB radio. 33 per cent, however, said they listen to the radio over the internet, so the need for DAB is still far from proven despite the money the BBC keeps pouring into it.

Without BBC support 30 per cent of UK homes now have the ability to pause and rewind their TV, thanks to a Digital Video Recorder of some sort. How many of those are still struggling to work out how to operate the thing isn't established. 20 per cent of homes in the USA and Canada are DVR-equipped, though the technology remains unpopular in Japan where only seven per cent of homes play host to TiVo or similar.

The Japanese are busy surfing the net - at least the girls are: 55 per cent of internet users in Japan are now female, putting them in the majority there, as well as Italy and Spain. The UK has an even split, though it's hardly surprising as such a high proportion of the population has some access to the World Wide Web.

So in general the UK compares well to the countries selected for comparison in the technologies users have been pushed into by enormous marketing efforts or government regulation. Something to be proud of there then. ®

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