Brits Turn to Zoom as Christmas COVID Restrictions and Isolation Loom
An estimated 5.9 million UK adults (11%) expect to attend a livestream of Christmas celebrations with family members as new Covid restrictions and new cases take hold – but speed testing spells connectivity problems for those relying on livestreaming this festive season
London, 22nd December – As the UK chief medical officer warns that as many as one million Brits face Christmas in isolation with Covid cases continuing to surge, new data reveals that a significant number of Brits were already planning a livestreamed Christmas celebration with loved ones before Omicron took hold in the UK.
The representative survey of 2,023 consumers, conducted by mobile network benchmarking company Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) between late November and early December, shines a light on the increased use of streaming services and video calling to celebrate events remotely: an estimated 5.9 million UK adults (11%) expect to use livestreaming apps during Christmas celebrations with friends and family, down only slightly from the 12% of Brits who say they did the same during last year’s lockdown Christmas. Similarly, an estimated 5.9 million (11%) expect to bring in the New Year remotely via livestreamed celebrations with loved ones.
Whilst over a third of those surveyed (37%) state that they would have preferred to connect in person, many declared that video streaming and live video services have provided much needed relief through lockdowns and further restrictions. More than one in three Brits (34%) say that video calling, and remote events have helped them to feel included when they were unable to attend a celebration, and a further 28% say it helped them to feel connected to friends and family – particularly important during the Christmas period.
Use of mobile apps with video and livestreaming capabilities has risen sharply through the pandemic as events have been cancelled and remote alternatives became the only viable option. UK mobile users report using a number of video conferencing and video call services at higher rates: 31% of respondents that use Facebook Messenger reported that they use it more often now than before the pandemic, and similarly 23% of Facetime users and 31% of Zoom users reported that they use those apps more regularly now than before.
However, whilst many reported becoming increasingly willing or reliant on video streaming services to connect with family members through the festive period, the survey also reveals that many Brits suffer from connectivity issues that prevent them from making full use of these services. Nearly a quarter (24%) of those who have watched a remote event live claim to have encountered sound issues that damaged the experience, 24% reported fuzzy or low-quality picture, and 23% experienced video freezing through events that take place via mobile apps.
The issue of poor video quality, which can damage the inclusive feeling of remote celebrations with family and friends, was compounded when UK mobile users’ network speeds were put through speed tests. GWS’s speed testing found that of those with mobile devices able to conduct livestreams and video calls, one third (33%) had inadequate speeds to either watch or broadcast a live HD stream effectively (i.e., speeds less than 5 Mbps to watch and 4.5 Mbps to broadcast). With the UK set to spend another Christmas with virus rates high, many of whom will be relying on video streaming services to come together with family and friends may run into connectivity issues.
On a more positive note, O2 customers should be in good shape. Survey respondents on the O2 network complained the least among the customers of the four big mobile operators when asked which issues impacted their ability to both watch and initiate a livestream (for example, issues involving sound, low picture quality or freezing). Over half (51%) of O2 customers reported no issues watching livestreamed content, whereas only 42% of both EE and Vodafone customers, and 37% of those on Three, reported no issues. Customers on these three networks also reported audio and picture quality issues at much higher rates, with over a quarter (26%) of those on EE encountering poor sound quality and 27% of Three customers reporting fuzzy or low-quality picture when watching a livestreamed event, while 27% of Vodafone customers experienced issues with their livestream freezing.
Fortunately for mobile users, the UK’s 5G rollout continues to expand nationwide resulting in improvements to current mobile networks and helping to ensure that family members will have sufficient connectivity so they can share their special moments with loved ones. This is reflected by the fact that nearly a third of those surveyed (28%) said they were excited about the launch of 5G and the reliability it promises; in addition, one fifth (22%) responded that they thought 5G would be most important for keeping in touch with friends and family.
Meanwhile, GWS’s recent drive testing discovered that three of the four major operators have doubled their nationwide 5G coverage in comparison to last year (EE’s 5G coverage increased approximately 120%, O2’s 260%, Three’s 150%, and Vodafone’s 90%). In fact, 25 out of the 33 major metropolitan cities and towns that GWS tested across the UK now offer 5G coverage from all four operators.
Paul Carter, CEO, Global Wireless Solutions, commented: “The pandemic continues to underline the importance of robust digital connectivity that allows people to meet virtually when the risks of in person socialising are high. Video calling and livestreaming have provided so many with much needed relief when families and friends are forced apart over important celebrations like Christmas, New Years, and other occasions. Our data points to the fact that whilst current network capabilities allow people to feel connected, there are limitations.
The increased importance of high-quality streaming services, enabled by reliable connectivity, shows that the UK must continue to embrace technological innovation and invest in its digital infrastructure to ensure people can continue to come together virtually. 5G technology, with its reliability, super-fast speeds and low latency provides an answer to this issue. Online connections with friends and family will once again provide a lifeline for many through this coming Christmas period. Our investments in 5G technology will ensure that this is an option open to all.
GWS conducted its quantitative consumer polling and speed testing with Censuswide. Fieldwork was undertaken between the 17th November and 10th December 2021. The survey was carried out online using smartphones. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
GWS conducted direct benchmark testing in all areas of the UK from October to December 2021. GWS drove 33 markets and 15 motorways throughout the UK during the testing process, resulting in the completion of over a million Android and iOS individual controlled tests.
GWS’ collection and evaluation of data was conducted using Rhode & Schwarz test equipment, Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, and GWS’ MobiStat data evaluation and reporting platform.
For most consumers today, their mobile device is their life’s remote control. As the world’s largest independent mobile insights consulting firm, GWS measures every aspect of how people live, work and play via their mobile devices – as well as how mobile network performance affects them.
Combining our market-leading network benchmarking technology and methodology with deep behavioural data, we help businesses and organisations to drive innovation and deliver better customer experiences through mobile insights, anywhere in the world. Championing the needs of mobile users by understanding and testing the things that matter to them, we’ve evolved our technology and services in step with the needs of industry and consumers for over 25 years.
For more information visit https://www.gwsolutions.com/
Lucie Bickerdike/Adam Hudson
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