Small businesses in the UK are catching up with large corporates in Internet usage, according to a survey from telecoms watchdog Oftel.
The report, UK Telecoms Consumers: Awareness and Usage of advanced services 1999, is based on a survey of 505 business customers undertaken last May. It shows that although 80 per cent of larger businesses use the Internet compared to 34 per cent of small businesses, the latter are closing the gap.
One in five claim that they will get Internet access in the next six months.
Dave Edmonds, director general of Oftel said: "There is still scope for making small businesses even more aware of the benefits of new services."
The report also shows that Internet use in the residential market has more than doubled from seven per cent to 18 per cent since 1997. Out of the 520 residential customers surveyed, younger respondents are more receptive to advanced telecom services.
It was found that 23 to 34 year olds were more than twice as likely as any other age grouping to state that they were likely to subscribe to the Internet and purchase a mobile phone over the next six months.
The survey found that a significant proportion of all respondents were interested in new technologies. Some 27 per cent said they would subscribe to video on demand, 31 per cent to TV Internet and 31 per cent to fast Internet access.
Price did not appear to be an important factor amongst those not interested in new technology. The biggest reason for non subscription to new technologies was, "it does not appeal."
BT maintains its stranglehold on the residential market with nine in 10 respondents saying they use BT in their home. The next fixed line operator to BT is Cable & Wireless, used by seven per cent of respondents interviewed.
When it comes to added value telecoms services however, BT is facing stiffer competition from suppliers of Internet and mobile products. For example, BT has 73 per cent of the Internet access market, but America Online has 18 per cent and Freeserve 14 per cent.
In terms of mobile phone services, BT Cellnet (30 per cent) and Vodafone (33 per cent), jointly lead the market with around a one third share each.
Both Orange and One 2 One trail the market leaders with a 15 per cent share each.
Today Oftel launches national television advertising to promote the number changes which will create nine billion telephone numbers to meet future demand.
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