RealTime IT News

11.5 Million Brits Now Online at Home

[London, ENGLAND] About 11.5 million people use the Internet at home in the U.K., says monitoring company NetValue, an increase of three million during 2000.

Women make up 40 percent of home Internet users, having increased their number by 1.28 million to over four and a half million, while so-called "silver surfers" aged 55+ are up by 0.68 million to 2.24 million. However, children under the age of 14 account for just 0.6 million of the total.

The figures will give a lot of encouragement to the Internet industy in the U.K., battered by investment worries, dot-com disasters and general economic uncertainty. They show that there is a real audience that has continued to grow in line with the optimistic expectations of a year or more ago.

Not only are the basic numbers up, but usage per person is growing too. According to NetValue, U.K. users went online for an additional 4.2 sessions a month in December compared with the same point last year.

One key finding of the latest NetValue survey is that the trusted high-street brands are at last seeing their online strategies pay off. For example, visitors to argos co.uk have increased by more than 0.4 million while those to comet.co.uk are up three times over the previous year.

The figures look good, too, for the eventual arrival of an advanced mobile Internet. Over seven million Internet users, or 62 percent of the online population, currently own a mobile phone.

Less welcome to the industry is Friday's announcement by research firm Gartner Dataquest that worlwide PC shipments have slowed, having grown less than 15 percent during 2000. In the fourth quarter of 2000, shipments in the U.S. were up just 10 percent on the previous year.

Nonetheless, the latest snapshot of the U.K. Internet user base will be very welcome, and in any case the industry is not entirely linked to the PC market. Earlier this week ONdigital revealed it has a hundred thousand users of its online services connected to the Internet from their digital televisions.

Of course, big figures can still conceal a sad tale, as NetValue reminds us by noting that Letsbuyit.com, which earlier this week filed for bankruptcy, was the sixth most visited general retail Web site in December.

NetValue has not suggested reasons for the continued lively growth in home Internet usage in the U.K., but the introducion of unmetered access during 2000 has surely been a major factor. Extensive marketing campaigns by AOL and other major ISPs like LineOne are likely to ensure that this growth continues through 2001.