News and Information – January 2011

January 2011

News and Information for the Cross Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Digital Participation

Please do check the website for news and information updates inbetween meetings –


The UK saw the highest growth in smartphone take-up in the past year with a 70 per cent rise in subscriber numbers between January 2009 and January 2010, compared to 11 per cent in Italy. Italy has the highest take-up of smartphones overall among the comparator European countries with 26 subscribers for every 100 people, followed by Spain (21) and the UK (18). The market penetration of smartphones in the UK has doubled since mid-2009. According to ComScore, 29% of all mobile phones in the UK are smartphones.

Around 70% of new phones currently sold on contract are smartphones (GfK). Their take-up may exceed 50% within the next 12 months (Execution Noble).

Competition in the smartphone market intensifies. Some new entrants to the UK market (ZTE, Acer and Huawei) now offer low-cost smartphones for as little as £99.

While voice traffic volumes remain constant, data traffic volumes have exploded in the past two years. With further take-up of smartphones and tablet PCs (such as iPad), the volume of data traffic will continue to grow.

Increased data traffic causes network congestion and higher operating costs. It also forces operators to accelerate their plans for investment in network capacity, which includes upgrading current equipment, adding more base stations and potentially acquiring new spectrum.

Mobile social networking a success in the UK and Japan

The increase in take-up of smartphones and the ongoing roll-out of 3G networks allows more social networkers to access their accounts using their mobile phones. Figure 5.37 demonstrates the Japanese mobile experience. As seen in Figure 5.30, in Japan social network take-up via an internet connection was below average for our comparator countries; however, as can be seen here, mobile social networking take-up is in line with the US (both at 22% of mobile owners), suggesting that those who do access social networking sites in Japan frequently do so by mobile phone. Again, the UK (24%) tops the chart as a result of both high social networking take-up in general and high take-up of smartphones.

Link to table

Ofcom International Communications Market Report

Ofcom’s fifth International Communications Market report into the global communications market looks at take-up, availability and use of broadband, landlines, mobiles, TV and radio in 17 countries. The report looks at the UK position in relation to the comparator countries and finds that UK consumers are amongst some of the earliest adopters of new technologies.

Despite super-fast broadband being available in some parts of the comparator countries, fewer than one in 50 households in the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain had a superfast broadband connection at the end of 2009. This compares to 34 per cent of Japanese households. However, around the world there are large scale deployments of superfast networks and the UK compares well with its target of 66 per cent of households to have access to next-generation broadband by 2015.

The chart below provides an overview of key government announcements and publicly-funded initiatives to extend super-fast broadband networks and indicates a range of different approaches:

Link to chart

In general, operators invest in laying fibre networks first to areas where the cost per household is relatively low. So as fibre deployments extend more widely, the incremental cost of adding households generally increases. In all countries, therefore, there is a point where fibre deployment in unlikely to be delivered by market-led investment alone. The UK government Digital Britain report, published in 2009, estimated that the economics of next-generation broadband deployment, in the absence of public funding, would leave around a third of the population unserved by next-generation broadband networks. It estimated the public funds required to deliver a minimum of 40Mbit/s broadband to 90% of the population by 2015 at £2-3bn.

New scheme plans to get low-cost IT to new internet users

A pilot scheme to help people who are new to technology purchase their own computer and internet connection is being launched today by Remploy, the UK’s leading provider of specialist employment services for disabled people.

The ‘E-cycle’ project is part of Remploy’s commitment to Race Online 2012 and aims to help bring UK Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox’s vision for a Networked Nation to life by offering a low cost hardware and connectivity solution.

Working with UK online centres, a network which specialises in getting people started online, the ‘E-cycle’ project aims to help new computer and internet users get connected at home and make the web more accessible for everyone.

There are 9.2 million adults in the UK who are currently offline. 4 million of this group are also socially and economically disadvantaged. All of them are missing out on the many benefits, employment opportunities and cost savings that the web can offer. For those who do take their first steps online the process of then purchasing their own computer and first internet connection can be both confusing and expensive.

The Remploy ‘E-cycle’ scheme uses refurbished computers, and will provide customers with low cost machines and special internet deals to get them started at home quickly, easily and affordably. The ‘E-cycle’ website is a simple portal designed to be easy for new internet users to navigate, and will offer various cost and connectivity options which allow the purchaser to choose a package and payment method to suit them.

Prices will start from £98 for a PC with a Flat Screen Monitor, Mouse and keyboard including operating system and Office package with warranty, telephone support and delivery. Connectivity is provided by Three mobile – also a Race Online 2012 partner – with one month available for just £9, or three months for £18. People will be able to pay online, or pay off-line using Payzone, which allows cash payment at more than 20,000 sites including local convenience stores, garages and Post Offices.

The E-cycle pilot will test take-up, fulfilment and the usability of the new website with target consumers. Around 60 UK online centres across the country will be taking part in the trial, and encouraging people who want to buy their own computer to try economic e-cycling instead of splashing cash on new equipment.

While 200 computer packages have been set aside for the pilot, over the course of the next 12 months around 8000 consumers are expected to take up the Remploy offer. People will be able to get additional support by phone and email from Positive IT solutions, who can help with set up problems and troubleshooting. As well as making IT affordable, the scheme also has a Green IT message – giving a computer a second life is the equivalent of taking two cars off the road for one year.

We contacted Remploy to confirm if this project would roll out in Scotland and although the initial pilot may not, once the project is fully up and running it is almost certain that Scotland would be included.

Burns app for the iPhone

The complete works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard, have been made available free of charge on the iPhone for the first time.

The new iPhone app allowing enthusiasts around the world to download and instantly access Burns’ poetry has been developed by the Scottish Government.

The app includes a searchable database of every poem written by Burns, a summary of facts about the poet’s life and a guide to hosting a Burns Supper.

Shetland Islands

Work to connect Shetland to the outside world through broadband thanks to a fibre-optic telecoms cable from the Faroe Islands has begun.

Shetland Islands Council decided to invest £1.4m to tie in to a link that Faroese Telecom laid down to Scotland.

The Shetland Telecom project is expected to take three months to lay the 13 miles of cable. The hope is the link will attract new business to the islands, as well as supporting existing business. The initial land work will be followed by a sub sea connection. It will replace the relatively slow and sometimes unreliable current link.


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