March 28, 2002, 12:00 AM

Web access is finally looking more like a highway

For the first time in January, the amount of time spent online by broadband Internet access users exceeded that of dial-up modem users. But don’t rush out the heavy pages yet—dial-up connections still outnumber broadband 4-1.

One of the issues that has prevented retailers who sell online from adopting more sophisticated technology has been the issue of consumers’ connection to the Internet. Technology that works great in the lab often fails in implementation because too many consumers still have 28.8K modems-or worse.

But new research from Nielsen/NetRatings indicates a major shift in how consumers use the Internet: For the first time in January, time spent online by broadband users exceeded that of dial-up users.

“Increasingly, online business models will be built and marketed with broadband in mind,” says Jarvis Mak, senior Internet media analyst, NetRatings. “The growth and development of broadband will create a more interactive and robust online experience, impacting e-commerce, streaming media and overall Internet content.”

Broadband users logged 1.19 billion hours online in January, 51% of the 2.3 billion hours spent online, Nielsen/-NetRatings reports. A year ago, broadband users spent 727 million hours online, 38% of total time online.

Total time spent online by broadband users jumped 64% year-over-year, while time spent online by narrowband users decreased 3%. “Broadband usage has hit mainstream,” Mak says.

At the same time, though, retailers need to be careful that they don’t antagonize their broad base of customers. In numbers, dial-up users still far outstrip broadband users. Broadband at home users totaled 21.9 million in January while dial-up at home users totaled 82 million. The growth in broadband, however, came at the expense of narrowband. A year ago, there were 13.1 million broadband users and 87 million narrowband. And the use of broadband at home is still less than half the use of narrowband: 380 million hours for broadband vs. 818 million for narrowband.

During the same time period, the at-work broadband population grew 42% to 25.5 million office workers, as compared to 18 million the year prior.

Broadband is now in use by 63% of the Internet office population. And since a big portion of online shopping takes places from the office, now might be the time to experiment with some broadband offerings.

While U.S. Internet use was speeding up, NetRatings also reported that more people worldwide are online-498 million people-with at-home access, up 24 million in Q4 alone.


The momentum behind broadband Internet access
(users in millions)
AT HOME Jan. 2001 Jan. 2002 Change
Broadband unique users 13.1 21.9 67%
Narrowband unique users 87 82 -6%
AT WORK      
Broadband unique users 18 25.5 42%
Narrowband unique users 19.3 15 -23%
Source: Nielsen/NetRatings, January 2002      


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