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Ofcom reveals consumer confusion over 3G mobile phones

LONDON - After millions of pounds spent on advertising the new generation of mobile phones, the majority of the UK population do not understand what 3G means, according to a report published this week by Ofcom.

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The UK telecoms regulator interviewed 2,519 people in their homes around the UK across 193 locations and found that the term 3G was understood by fewer than one in five, with almost all of the remainder never having heard of it.

According to the report, which asked "Is there a consumer knowledge gap?", only 15% understood the term 3G. Of the remainder, 7% did not understand and 76% are misinformed.

Awareness of 3G shows a steadier decline as the audience gets older. There was also a low awareness of the terms broadband, digital radio and digital TV for those aged 55 and over.

The report stated: "While broadband and digital TV have reasonable levels of understanding, digital radio and 3G are not understood by the majority of consumers. Furthermore, the majority of consumers have not heard of 3G as a term relating to communications services."

A spokesperson for Vodafone said the lack of knowledge of 3G did not come as a big surprise, however it is not expected to affect sales.

"The large majority of customers don't buy our technology as such, they come in to buy a device that does 'this' and 'that'," the spokesperson said. 

"They don't tend to specify the actual technology, more the function that the phone can deliver. It is more the early adopters of new devices that are conscious of technology."

Last year Vodafone spent £13m on the launch advertising for its Vodafone Live! 3G services, created by JWT, including a made-for-mobile drama inspired by the hit spy series '24'.

3G mobile phones provide multimedia services to mobile phone including videos, video conferencing and internet access.

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