Internet and mobile phone access are improving across the income distribution, although there are still large differences. Lack of skills is now a more significant barrier to domestic internet use than equipment or access costs.

The proportion of households lacking access to a mobile phone fell consistently across the income spectrum over the five years to 2013. The proportion of the poorest households lacking a mobile phone has fallen by more than half, from 35 per cent to 14 per cent in 2013, the greatest overall percentage point fall. The proportion of households on median incomes lacking mobile phone access was 8 per cent.

Similarly, the proportion of households lacking access to the internet has also fallen across the income spectrum in the same period. The greatest percentage point fall was again among the poorest households, at 27 percentage points, from 64 per cent in 2008 to 37 per cent in 2013.

Despite this improvement, there are still considerable gaps between richest and poorest in terms of internet access, with households in the poorest quintile more than ten times as likely to lack internet access than the richest quintile and more than twice as likely as households with average incomes.

However, the barriers to domestic internet access have shifted over recent years. Whereas in 2008 5 per cent of people did not have access to the internet at home because equipment costs were too high and 4 per cent because access costs were too high, the same figures in 2015 were both under 2 per cent. Cost has become a much less significant barrier to lacking internet access.

Meanwhile, a similar proportion considered lack of skills to be a barrier to internet access in 2008, at 4 per cent compared with 5 per cent in 2008. Although not a barrier as such, the main reason for lacking internet access was the feeling that it was not necessary.

Indicator: 39A

Indicator: 39B

about the indicator

The first graph compares the proportion of households in two years (2008 and 2013) without a domestic internet connection or mobile phone, for each quintile of the income distribution. Internet connection includes broadband and dial-up connection. The incomes have been equivalised to take account of different kinds of household, to adjust for the fact that pensioners without children are less likely to have an internet connection or mobile phone and many pensioners living alone may otherwise be in the lowest income group.

The second graph shows the proportion of all households lacking internet access for two years (2008 and 2015), broken down by the reason for lacking access. Percentages sum to more than the total proportion of households without internet access as respondents could give more than one answer.

Reliability rating: high.

Next up on services

More on this report