By Daniel Hunter

New research from Deloitte, the business advisory firm, reveals a marked uplift in awareness and interest in 4G among UK consumers.

This is even higher among smartphone owners, with almost half (46%) of the respondents saying that they are likely to choose a 4G phone as their next phone. Over one third of the respondents said they were likely to choose a 4G phone when they replaced their current phone, a 20% increase from 2012.

The prospects for 4G services also look strong, with one in five UK respondents planning to upgrade to the service in the next 12 months.

Currently ownership of 4G-ready phones is higher than the demand for the 4G service. Respondents who owned a 4G device outnumbered those with 4G as a service by two to one and only one-third of respondents who have a 4G smartphone also subscribed to a 4G package.

Ed Marsden, lead telecoms partner at Deloitte, comments: “The UK was the eighteenth country in EU28 to launch 4G, but it has enjoyed one of the most enthusiastic take-ups for the service in the region. With the launch of 4G services and more 4G phones coming to market, 4G subscribers should number in the millions.”

Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte, adds: “One key question will be if 4G will change consumers’ behaviour and whether they will use services that require high usage of data. While 4G does make watching streamed TV possible, it is likely to be prohibitively expensive for most consumers. A gigabyte of data costs several pounds, and would only enable between two to four hours of video.”

Deloitte’s research has shown that over one-third (38%) of smartphone owners have been shocked by their mobile bill in the last 12 months and exceeding the mobile data allowance is cited by 31% as the main reason. Whilst heavy data usage is encouraged on 4G, the risks of consumers exceeding their allowance becomes even greater, exacerbated by people not fully understanding the cost of using data on their phones.

Whilst the prospects for 4G remain positive, Wi-Fi remains the main type of connectivity in the UK and this trend in unlikely to change soon. Two-thirds of UK smartphone owners (67%) said Wi-Fi is the connectivity used most often on their smartphones, an increase from 58% last year.

Paul adds: “Wi-Fi is considered to be faster and more reliable and it also allows consumers to save the data allowance on their phones. As Wi-Fi usage does not show any signs of slowing down in the near future, the question for operators is how they can persuade smartphone owners to increase their data traffic over the mobile network and entice customers to subscribe to 4G at a premium.”

Other key findings:

- 39% of prospective 4G consumers expect to use more email and 30% expect to watch more video
- The appetite for 4G seems to be even higher among London based consumers: a quarter of Londoners would like to subscribe to 4G in the next 12 months.
- 31% of prospective 4G consumers identified the price of 4G packages as the main reason for not subscribing to the service and one-quarter of respondents are happy with the speeds that they are currently getting.

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