Brussels, 13 August 2013
Europeans seek ever more mobile bandwidth, but they worry about cost
Europeans are increasingly eager for new technologies as shown by the latest EU-wide survey. While Europeans are open to the opportunities offered by new tools & services, as illustrated by the figures for new internet subscriptions and use of the internet for making voice calls, they still think twice before picking up the phone or going online because of the cost of these services.
Mobile phones are now everywhere, but only half are "smart". Subscriptions for phones that include internet access range from 55% in Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Finland, France & the Netherlands to below 35% in Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria & Portugal. This lower penetration of smart phones is a feature in many countries where mobile Internet access subscribers limit time spent online because they are concerned about the charges - Hungary (35%), Portugal (58%), Greece (53%), Cyprus (52%), Belgium, (47%) & Romania (45%). Worries about the cost are currently leading more than half of EU citizens to limit calls from their mobile to national (55%) and international numbers (54%). More than 70% limit their national calls in Greece (81%), Portugal (79%), Ireland (72%) and Romania (71%).
Broadband access at home is the reality for 3/4 of households: 72.5% of EU households now have a broadband connection, up from 67.3% in 2011 (Source: Eurostat). The number leapt by 20 percentage points in Romania and by 16.7 points in Slovakia, with more than 50% of households now having a broadband connection across all member states. And the division between phone & Internet is blurring fast: 34% use the internet to make voice calls (Voice over Internet Protocol or "VOIP"), up 7 points in 2012. 28% uses the internet to talk to users on the same VOIP network for free, and 4% use VOIP to make cheaper international calls. Web-based calls are extremely popular in Bulgaria (57%), Cyprus (55%), Estonia (54%), Lithuania & Latvia (51%). VOIP is less used in Portugal (18%), Italy, (26%), Spain (28%) & Greece (29%), but becoming more popular, with use growing by an average of 7 points since 2011. The increase in VOIP use seems to track the growth in broadband; for example, in Cyprus, there were 11% more connected households in 2012 and VOIP use grew by 16 points.
"Ensuring consumers' expectations can be met at an affordable price is one of the aims of the Connected Continent package, which will be presented by the Commission in September," said Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda.
Results of this survey were previewed earlier in July (see IP/13/660) in particular highlighting the fact that Internet speed is emerging as a top issue for internet users. 45% of European internet users would be willing to upgrade or change their internet packages for higher speed.
The E-Communications Household Survey has been conducted annually since 2006. The survey aims to support policy development in the field of E-communications through the regular gathering of facts and trends about the attitude of households and individuals towards the provision of the main electronic communications services.
The fieldwork for this survey was completed in March 2013. 26,786 respondents from different representative social and demographic groups of the EU population were interviewed face-to-face at home. Because the fieldwork took place before the official date of Croatia's accession to the European Union on 1 July 2013, results are presented for the EU 27 and Croatia, and EU averages refer to EU 27 only.