Mobile phones come out tops

And according to telecoms regulator Oftel, this number is continuing to climb, while the cost of using related services is continuing to fall.

What’s more, mobile phone use is spreading to almost every section of society and every area of the country.

These were the findings of the latest quarterly survey into the consumer use of mobile telephony, which was conducted for Oftel by Mori. The market researcher quizzed a representative sample of 2092 UK adults during August.

And for anyone planning to roll out services to mobile phone users, the results make essential reading.

There are now almost 32 million people who subscribe to a UK mobile phone network – an increase of three million since the last survey was undertaken in May. About 54 per cent of UK adults now own their own.

But the cliche that mobile phones are the domain of young people is true – 75 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds have one – although this phenomena shouldn’t be exaggerated.

Only among the over-55s do less than 50 per cent of the age group have one and this figure drops to negligible levels with the over-75s. But this means that pensioners carry mobile phones too.

Widespread adoption
There’s a similar picture of widespread adoption when you look at mobile owners’ incomes, and where they live. While ownership is highest among high-income groups, more than 40 per cent of people living in poorer households (defined as with annual incomes below £17,500) also have them.

Using the standard sociological categories of AB, C1, C2 and so on, some 52 per cent of Ds (semi and unskilled manual labourers) have mobile phones, and the figure only drops to 31 per cent with the Es (subsistence pensioners, poorest workers and unemployed).

Indeed, they even appeal to people who don’t have ordinary fixed-line phones. Six per cent of UK homes still don’t have one, but Mori found that 74 per cent of them were now using a mobile instead.

The likely reason for this is that consumers can go and buy a mobile phone in a shop and pay for calls in advance with pre-paid vouchers. To have a fixed phone installed, on the other hand, involves credit checks, which makes them unattainable for some people.

Packages such as vouchers and the chance to pay in advance by credit card or debit card directly to the network providers have been a major success. They are now the chosen method of payment for almost two-thirds of mobile phone customers.

But spending varies considerably by the type of package used – those using monthly subscription packages, for example, spend twice as much as those using pre-payment schemes.

The average monthly expenditure with all types of package was about £21, although the researchers noted that this figure was inflated by a small number of high spenders. Two-thirds of mobile users spend less than £20 each month.

Falling costs
A separate pricing study conducted for Oftel by National Economic Research Associates also confirmed that the cost of using a mobile phone is falling. For pre-paid customers, it has dropped by a third in the past 12 months, and by 12 per cent for those on monthly contracts.

‘Large numbers of consumers are shopping around and changing networks to get the deal that suits their needs,’ said David Edmonds, Oftel’s director general of telecommunications. One in five customers have switched from one mobile network to another at least once, and 16 per cent have switched payment packages.

But according to yet another study, published by Fintec Communications, Vodafone is the favourite network for ordinary consumers, with a 31 per cent market share. It is followed by BT Cellnet with 25 per cent, Orange with 24 per cent, and One 2 One with 20 per cent.

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