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04 August 2016

High use of smartphones in Northern Ireland symptomatic of poor superfast broadband speeds - FSB

OFCOM figures released today revealing that more people in Northern Ireland own a smartphone compared to the rest of the UK, emphasise the necessity to redress the lack of broadband and mobile coverage to small businesses – according to FSB.

The percentage of smartphone users jumped to 72% in Northern Ireland during the first part of 2016, with a marked 16% increase this year in rural areas.   Additionally, smartphone users in Northern Ireland use smartphones, more than the rest of the UK, to access the internet with 69% of users having gone online via their phone;  and two thirds in the last week alone .

Wilfred Mitchell OBE, FSB Policy Chair for Northern Ireland explained: “FSB research has established the extent to which online connectivity is regarded as important as electricity to business – with 94% of SMEs stating internet connection as vital to business success.  However, there are still large areas of Northern Ireland, particularly rural and located west of the River Bann, where superfast broadband and 4G mobile coverage is non-existent.

“Online connectivity is essential to all businesses, but in particular to those that are located in rural areas, where there has been a marked increase of smartphone usage of 16%.  In areas where superfast broadband isn’t available, FSB research has revealed that there are high numbers of small firms who say they use their mobile phone for internet banking and to interact with customers and suppliers.”

Mr Mitchell concluded: “FSB urges the Northern Ireland Executive to intervene under the powers of the Communications Act 2003 and bring to the fore the market distortion in terms of poor mobile and broadband coverage and continue to support increased investment in developing broadband and 4G coverage.” 

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