The UK Internet economy is being constrained by the absence of unmetered access, according to a report published today.
Researcher Durlacher believes that UK residential Internet users would increase the frequency of their online access by 46 per cent if they were not restricted by so-called pay-per-minute phone charges.
However, Durlacher says that unmetered pricing plans from BT, Telewest and others should boost Net use.
Durlacher's survey of 4000 UK homes found that users would increase the time spent online by more than 100 per cent with unmetered access. This combined with the increased frequency would triple their average annual Net use from 130 hours to 386 hours.
Although the number of UK homes online increased from 11 per cent to 17 per cent last year, Durlacher believes that a significant portion of the population is being left behind. The introduction of unmetered access would have a "substantially beneficial effect on consumer-focused Internet companies in the UK", said the researcher.
"The widespread adoption of unmetered Internet access would provide a massive boost for what is already a rapidly growing UK Internet economy. The impending introduction of new technologies and pricing plans should start the unmetered access ball rolling," said Nick Gibson, Durlacher's senior Internet analyst.
The new technologies, which will include broadband and mid-band technology and cable modems, will have unmetered access as standard, said Gibson. New pricing plans from service providers are also being introduced.
Telewest today launched its Surfunlimited service, offering unmetered access for £10 a month. A spokesman for the company said the problems that the Durlacher report highlights are exactly why Telewest introduced its service. "Internet users are constrained by cost. Surfunlimited will take the worries of cost away," he said.
Last year, BT also unveiled plans to introduce pricing options for unlimited Net access. BT Surftime, which will offer a range of unmetered packages at a monthly fee, is expected to be launched this Spring.
"Surftime will encourage more people to get online," said a BT spokesman.
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