Cost of mobile data less of an issue than ever, says Ofcom

By James Cridland for
Posted 7 October 2014, 5.05pm edt

6% of mobile phone consumers have experienced "bill shock" in the last twelve months, according to UK regulator Ofcom.

"Bill shock" is an industry term for an unexpectedly high bill. Radio streaming - because of the potential length of time - is a potential cause of a high bill, and one of the reasons that some proponents of broadcast radio give for FM chips inside phones.

This 6% reflects a continuing decline in bill shock over the last few years. It might be that consumers are more educated; or that roaming bills have been lowered across Europe; and it should be put against increasing audience figures for online streaming services like Radioplayer and iPlayer Radio.

One hour of listening to a typical 48kbps stream is 22MB of data. Over a month, that adds up to about 660 MB.

So, is radio streaming causing bill shock?

Out of those who'd experienced "bill shock", the third most cited reason is the use of mobile data. 12% reported the cause as being using more than their monthly data allowance. 6% said the cause was that they'd used data without actually having a data allowance at all; while 8% reported high costs while using mobiles abroad.

The reason most gave for their bills being unexpectedly higher than normal was related to telephone calls. 15% of people were surprised by the cost of non-geographical numbers, like 0870 or 0845 numbers. 13% of people were caught out by numbers not being included in their monthly call allowance, and 12% paid more because they went over their call allowance.

So, for radio, is the cost of mobile data a concern? There's no data in this research that specifically pinpoints radio; but this survey suggests that 0.72% of all UK mobile phone users have been caught out by the cost of data. While still potentially 460,000 people, 0.72% doesn't appear to point to a big issue with the cost of data for many.

The bill shock research is on the Ofcom website.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


5 years, 7 months ago

is that 48kbps AAC or MP3? Bauer's stations sound pretty good at that bitrate, I guess they are using dedicated encoders rather than an FM radio plugged into an audio in on a computer like some stations do >_>

5 years, 7 months ago

George: it doesn't matter, the 48kbps I quote could be AAC HE v2 or MP3. But most stations use AAC HE v2 ("AAC+") for their mobile streams. It does sound pretty good, if you're encoding a well processed signal.

5 years, 7 months ago

Could this simply be down to users continuing to accept background downloads, such as app updates over 3G/4G? It's simple enough to have these over wifi only.

Recently I asked on Twitter to UK Radioplayer about the lack of Rinse FM on their mobile app and they said they don't stream at such a low bitrate to be accepted for it.

5 years, 7 months ago

You need a 48kbps stream, or lower, to be listed on the mobile Radioplayer because otherwise your stream won't work well while mobile, as I understand it. Radioplayer released figures earlier this year that showed around 30% of listening happens on a 3G or 4G connection.

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