By Claire West

UK consumers are some of the earliest adopters of new communications technologies, new Ofcom research reveals.

They are among the best connected for broadband, mobile and digital TV and the UK has seen the fastest growth in smartphone take-up. UK consumers are also enjoying lower prices for communications services than many consumers across the world.

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.

UK households among the best connected

Take-up of communications services across the world is continuing at a rapid pace, despite the global recession. Ofcom’s consumer research reveals that across the six countries it surveyed, expenditure on communications services remains resilient with people less likely to cut down on communications services, and in particular broadband (6-7 per cent), than they are on other areas such as nights out (39-56 per cent) or holidays (29-51 per cent).

UK households have comparatively high levels of take-up of communications services, with among the highest take-up of landlines, fixed broadband connections, mobile connections and digital TV at the end of 2009.

However the UK is behind other countries in take-up of VoIP services with only 5 subscribers for every 100 people, compared with 26 in France and 20 in the Netherlands.

UK consumers prefer portable devices to use the internet

Across most countries, the desktop PC is still the most popular device used to access the internet at home, followed by the laptop. But in the UK the opposite is true with laptops being the most popular device used to access the internet at home, used by 69 per cent of internet users. The UK is the only country surveyed where more than half of 18-24s (60 per cent) use a device other than a desktop PC to use the internet.

Mobile internet is also popular with people in the UK with 29 per cent of internet users saying they use their mobile to access the internet at home, second only to those in Japan at 43 per cent. Fourteen per cent of UK and US consumers also use their games consoles to access the internet, compared with 7 per cent of internet users in Germany.

UK sees fastest growth in smartphone take-up

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).

Spain, closely followed by the UK, also has the highest proportion of subscribers paying over £35 or €50 per month for their smartphone services (seven and six subscribers for every 100 people respectively).

High value subscribers are more likely to use premium handsets such as the iPhone. They are also more likely to have more bundled minutes and data, suggesting that subscribers plan to use their phones more often and for more functions.