Speed Tops Cost When U.K. Users Choose ISPs

Connection speed/access to the Internet is more important to U.K. Internet users than subscription costs, customer service or even email services, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

The J.D. Power and Associates “2001 U.K. Residential Internet Service Provider (ISP) Customer Satisfaction Study” found that 37 percent of those surveyed believe connection speed/access is the most important factor influencing customers’ satisfaction with their ISP.

The number of UK households using the Internet has grown from 28 percent in 2000 to 32 percent in 2001, but is still lower than in the United States, which is more than 48 percent.

Internet pricing packages in Britain have continued to evolve, with 21 percent of customers now being on fully unmetered access. More than one-half (59 percent) of all users pay no subscription charges. Those paying subscriptions (41 percent) quoted average monthly costs of £13.20, including technical support. Despite the increase in usage, there has been a substantial reduction in the amount spent on call charges, with the average monthly cost now at £7.60, compared with £15.95 in 2000.

On average, U.K. households spend 7.4 hours on the Internet each week compared with 5.5 hours in 2000, an increase of nearly 35 percent. More than half (51 per cent) of Internet users send emails on a daily basis, compared to only 5 percent using banking/financial services online.

Although the U.K. Internet users put speed ahead of cost, the use of high-speed access devices such as cable modems and ADSL high-speed lines remains low, accounting for 5 and 2 percent of households, respectively. In the case of ADSL, high costs and limited availability remain continuing deterrents. Despite the benefits of cable modem and ADSL only 9 percent of households said that they were “extremely” or “very likely” to acquire either in the next 12 months, according to the survey.

“A very encouraging result emerging from the study, which is good news for ISPs, is that the number of households that indicate they will switch providers in the next 12 months has halved to 13 percent from 26 percent in 2000,” said Gunda Lapski, director of Telecommunications and ISP Studies in the U.K. for J.D. Power and Associates. “However, the churn rate in the last 12 months has remained high, with 32 percent of households changing providers.”

According to the study, AOL ranked as the No. 1 ISP in customer satisfaction in Britain. AOL leads in four of the seven factors that comprise overall customer satisfaction, including company image/communications and customer service. Following AOL closely in the rankings is NTL, which demonstrated strong performance in costs and billing/options. LineOne and IC24 tie for third place in overall customer satisfaction. LineOne, together with Tiny Online receives highest ranking for most important factor connection speed/access.

Freeserve is the most popular ISP in Britain (16 percent), followed by BT Internet (10 percent) and AOL (9 percent). The average cost of Internet call charges has dropped by one-half since 2000, with nearly one-third of U.K. households using the Internet and spending, an average of more than 7 hours per week online.

“The Internet market in the U.K. still has considerable potential for growth,” Lapski said. “Extensive industry consolidation in the past 12 months has placed the market leaders in a stronger position to benefit from this anticipated growth.”

The also found that the number of households with mobile Internet access (WAP phones) stood at 14 percent, compared to 9 percent recorded in the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 UK Mobile Phone Survey earlier this year. This suggests that households already in possession of computer equipment take up more of the latest technology than households that are not online.

The ISP Customer Satisfaction Survey involved extensive interviews with 1,788 Internet subscribers in the Britain and represents a cross section of the U.K. ISP market.

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