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Mobile Matters: new Ofcom research on UK mobile use during lockdown

Key findings in Ofcom's analysis of the changing ways in which people use their mobile services, and the experience they receive, during lockdown.

Ofcom’s latest report 'Mobile Matters' analysed UK Android mobile users during January and April 2020, revealing a significant increase in time spent on mobile calls as people used their devices to stay connected with loved ones during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

The research shows how critical mobile technology is to UK society, with callers spending around 50% longer on mobiles during early stages of the coronavirus lockdown. Unsurprisingly, mobile use shifted from city centres to suburbs as many people worked from home. There was also an increase in calls made in parks and open spaces, as people sought outdoor time. 

The report reveals marked differences in how people used their phones before and during the initial Covid-19 lockdown period.

The average mobile call in the initial weeks of lockdown lasted around five and a half minutes – nearly two minutes more than before the social and working restrictions began. But more generally, many people are not using their mobile for traditional calls at all. Ofcom's data shows that more than one in five people did not make or receive a single call on their mobile network in the first 11 weeks of the year. This can in part be explained by the rise of video communications services (such as FaceTime and Zoom and others. Instant messaging is also a factor. 

Ofcom’s report also looked at how well mobile networks performed in the first part of the year. People had a 4G network available to them over 80% of the time. When people did try to connect to 4G networks those attempts were successful 97% of the time. 

As techUK highlighted in March, mobile network operators put in place mitigation measures, alongside the existing extra capacity measures, to ensure that the UK remained connected during lockdown. The mobile industry’s efforts were matched by the fixed sector, during a time when home broadband providers reported an increase of between 35 per cent and 60 per cent in weekday daytime traffic since the lockdown began. The networks stood up to this increased demand and prioritise keeping the nation, despite the pressures of remote-working and changes in staffing levels.


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