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Brits turn to mobile data as lockdown increases broadband strain

People are increasingly switching to mobile data during the lockdown to stay online as their broadband connections are suffering under the additional strain, a new study commissioned by O2 has found.

The research, conducted by YouGov, found that over one-third (36 per cent) of people are regularly switching to mobile data in order to stay online. Young people aged 18 to 34 (61 per cent) and those with children in the household (65 per cent) in particular are using mobile data to stay connected.

While more than 95 per cent of UK premises can now access broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps, according to Ofcom, this may not be enough for large families using the service simultaneously. In addition, many rural areas cannot access anything like these speeds.

The survey found that over a quarter (28 per cent) of people have considered switching to mobile data for an important business call, although ‘Zoom fatigue’ is causing a resurgence of voice calls, as people grow tired of participating in video chats.

Over a quarter (28 per cent) of people and over a third (36 per cent) of 18-24 year olds are switching to their mobile phones for an old fashioned voice call, the survey found. People are also spending longer catching up on the phone, with voice call duration increasing by an average of 30 seconds.

Fears were raised that global lockdowns could cause undue strain on internet infrastructure; the European Commission even asked video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime to limit their video quality in order to minimise the demand on networks.

A study in May last year showed that UK internet speeds had only declined by around 2 per cent since the start of the lockdown, despite much-increased internet usage.

As working from home becomes the norm, connectivity is an increasingly important factor when moving house, with 76 per cent of 18 to 34-year olds agreeing that access to mobile data will be important to them when choosing where to live in the future.

Emma Evans, head of network experience at O2, said: “Covid-19 has demonstrated that reliable mobile connectivity is essential, helping families across the UK home-school their children; stay connected to loved ones, and keep businesses across the nation up and running.

“It’s because of this that O2 is committed to its role in rebuilding Britain and why we are investing more in our network in 2021 than ever before.

“We are pleased that the use of mobile data is able to support families and households to get through this difficult, unprecedented time when connectivity is crucial for daily life.”

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