More Britons are accessing the Internet via broadband connections than using slower dial-up services as increasing competition pushes down prices and increases connection speeds.

Nearly 30 percent of UK households and businesses, or 8.1 million, now have broadband connections, compared to 7.5 million dial-up connections, and virtually all UK homes will be able to get broadband by the end of 2005, UK telecoms and media regulator Ofcom said in a report published on Wednesday.

Broadband connections, dubbed by Prime Minister Tony Blair as of "vital importance" to enhance the UK's ability to compete in the modern knowledge economy, still lag those in countries such as South Korea, the United States, Japan and most other western European countries. But the gap is narrowing.

In its second annual Communications Market report, Ofcom noted that while broadband Internet connections doubled in 2004, revenues only increased by 6.8 percent as competition mounted.

At the end of 2002, a 512 kilobits per second connection cost an average of 27 pounds ($47.82) per month in Britain. A connection that is about twice as fast, 1 Megabit per second, now costs 20 pounds per month.

The shift to high-speed Internet access is part of a broader move to digital media in Britain. More than 60 percent of households now receive digital television via cable, satellite, or the fast-growing Freeview platform.

Digital radio is also making gains. About 8 percent of listening is comprised of DAB digital radio receivers, Internet radio streamed to computers, or digital radio delivered to TV sets.

UK households are consequently spending an increasing percentage of their incomes on TV, radio, and telecommunications: more than 1,000 pounds per year. That is about 4 percent of total consumer spending and about a third higher than the amount spent in 2000.

Revenues from mobile phone voice and data services alone stood at 12.3 billion pounds at the end of 2004, overtaking fixed-line voice revenues for the first time, Ofcom said.


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