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We Love Us Some Mobile Internet In The UK

Numbers out this morning from the Office of National Statistics in the UK give us the most up-to-date picture yet of the growing role mobile is playing in the digital divide: 45 percent of the country’s Internet-using population have taken to mobile devices to go online in the past year. The rise in usage among 16-24 year-olds is most impressive: 71 percent today are using mobile devices to go online, compared to 44 percent only a year ago.

The figures underscore how much smartphones and advanced feature phones, combined with low-cost data plans and WiFi, are transforming how the internet is consumed. It looks like the UK is standing out as one of the leaders in this sense. It’s not a 100 percent, like-for-like comparison but as a point of reference, comScore yesterday released figures that showed that in the U.S. some 41 percent of consumers used the mobile web browsers on their handsets in the last three months.

But despite how long we have been able to access the mobile web on our devices — the first data networks came into place a decade ago, as did the first phones to browse the Internet — mass market growth has come only recently. The ONS notes that in the last 12 months, six million people accessed the Internet for the very first time on their mobile phones.

Other key points:

» Overall, the UK has some 37.7 million Internet users at the moment. That means that nearly 17 million of us have used our mobile phones to access the mobile internet.

» Other “mobile” devices such as laptops and tablets are also making a big impact: 38 percent of people say they have used these kind of devices to access the internet. That’s on top of mobile phone usage, by the way.

» WiFi is big: usage of hotspots has doubled in the last year to 4.9 million users (13 percent of internet users).

» People over the age of 65 are the least likely to use a mobile to access the internet — only eight percent of internet users in that age group have used mobile devices to do this. (A market opportunity?)

» In terms of what it is that people are doing when they go online, it looks like social networking is a key driver of usage. Among adults, 57 percent say they have used social networks online, compared to 43 percent a year ago. Among that much-coveted demographic of 16-24 year-olds, the number is amazingly high: 91 percent. To compare to the comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) figures from yesterday, in the U.S., around 30 of mobile phone users in the country used their devices to access social networks.

» The digital divide: now 77 percent of all UK households have access to the internet, a rather small rise on the 73 percent from a year ago. Of those, 93 percent are using broadband to go online.

The full report is here.

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