Satisfaction levels with consumers’ current broadband provider are high. Just 4% would say they are “dissatisfied” with the service they receive from their provider and only 1% would say they are “very dissatisfied.”. Beyond ensuring no significant service outages, there is not a great deal that providers need to do to ensure levels of satisfaction remain high – although this is also an indication that inertia is a significant barrier to switching providers.

11% of consumers who are internet bill payers have been with their provider for less than 12 months, and of those, 29% say that COVID-19/coronavirus caused them “to upgrade my broadband connection to a faster service”. However, of the 89% who have been with their provider longer than 12 months, over one in five (21%) say they have considered upgrading their broadband connection since COVID-19 started.

43% of all consumers say that “It is better to stick with what you know when it comes to broadband providers”. Also, 37% say that “concerns over loss or interruption of service(s) have put me off switching providers in the past”. The cautious approach may in part be down to consumers feeling a loss more acutely than any potential gain they may see from changing a provider, which can put off active shopping around to find better deals.

Auto-switching tools are successfully deployed in other markets for insurance and utilities and one for telecoms services could gain traction. 52% say that a tool to automatically find and switch to cheaper deals with equivalent services would be appealing, which could help those overwhelmed by choice navigate the market better.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the broadband and bundled communications services market and on consumer behaviour.

  • Market size and forecast of the broadband and bundled communications market.

  • Innovations of companies operating in the market, including new product launches and investments in satellite and Gigabit broadband.

  • Key advertising activity, including top campaigns by providers in the broadband and bundled communications market.

  • Consumer use of key broadband suppliers and levels of satisfaction with them.

  • Consumer take-up of bundled communications services and attitudes towards broadband and bundled communications services.

COVID-19: market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020, with a small number of cases in February. As the case level rose, the government ordered the closure of non-essential stores on 20 March. 

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23 March. It wasn't until 15 June that non-essential stores were allowed to reopen, followed by pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers on 4 July, and many beauty businesses on 13 July.

By September, it had become clear that the UK was at the start of a second wave, and social distancing measures were intensified. Continued increases in infection numbers led to Wales implementing a two-week national lockdown from 19 October, England announcing a month-long lockdown from 5 November and Scotland introducing a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions. 

Despite these restrictions, however, case numbers continued to increase. All four UK nations tightened restrictions in January 2021, effectively leading to a full UK-wide lockdown. There is no defined end date for the lockdown, although the legislation regarding the English lockdown that was presented to Parliament extends to 31 March.

The UK’s vaccination programme started on 8 December 2020, and with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines licensed for use in the UK, the government aims to offer a vaccine to 15 million people by mid-February.

Impact of the January lockdown and the vaccination rollout

Our core assumptions on the path of the pandemic had always included an expectation of severe disruption to markets and consumers’ lifestyles well into 2021, with a strong likelihood that the virus would still be with us even into 2022. Although the second wave of infections and subsequent lockdown puts us towards the negative end of our initial expectations, these developments are still broadly consistent with our previous assumptions.

Similarly, Mintel had factored in the likelihood that an effective vaccine would be available from early to mid-2021. The licensing of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines puts us slightly ahead of that assumption, but the challenge associated with rolling out a new vaccination programme to millions of people means that our previous assumptions are still broadly consistent with the new reality.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its March 2021 Fiscal Sustainability Report. After the fall of 9.9% over the course of 2020, the scenario suggests that UK GDP will grow by 4% in 2021, and 7.3% in 2022.

GDP isn’t expected to return to pre-COVID levels until the second quarter of 2022, although this is six months earlier than the OBR forecast in November 2020, mainly because of the faster than expected rollout of vaccines.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021. As with GDP, this is more positive than the OBR’s November forecast, but the OBR does raise the prospect of long-term scarring on employment, especially in the more exposed retail and hospitality sectors.

Products covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

This Report looks at the sale and provision of broadband and telecommunication products to consumers.

Telecommunication products include fixed-line telephony, mobile telephony, internet and television. Individually these are known as ‘services’.

When two or more services are sold to a consumer by the same provider at the same time, they are referred to as a ‘bundle’. Specifically, two services sold at the same time are a dual-play bundle, three services sold at the same time are a triple-play bundle and four services sold at the same time are a quad-play bundle.

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