Failure to launch universal 4G will cost UK economy £120m this Christmas

More than half of consumers will shop more on mobile this year than last A third of consumers think it’s frustrating or unfair that 4G is not yet available for all With better mobile connections brought by 4G, Christmas mobile sales would be one third more than the current prediction

Another Christmas without universal 4G services will cost the UK economy £120m[1] in lost mobile sales, according to new research from eBay, the leading online marketplace.

As shoppers stock up on Christmas gifts and supplies over the festive season, slow connection speeds are set to pose a barrier for many consumers wishing to shop via their mobile devices. The research reveals that with better connections from the nationwide roll-out of 4G, mobile sales would have been one third more than current predictions, up to £493m from £373m[2].

This Christmas over half (55%) of consumers plan to use their mobile device more than they did last year to browse the web, while almost the same number say they will use mobile devices to get inspiration for gift ideas and to check prices or product details (39%). meanwhile, expects to see around a third of items in its Christmas campaign bought through a smartphone – leaving no doubt that mobile retail is on the rise among Britain’s hoards of shoppers.

But despite mounting consumer demand, significant barriers still remain as the UK’s legacy network infrastructure continues to creak under the strain of rising volumes of mobile data, which is growing 250%[3] year on year.

The top three barriers preventing consumers from shopping on their mobiles are slow connection speeds, payments timing out and network reliability. 4G holds the key to breaking down these barriers, as 4G networks are built to handle mobile internet and data more quickly, enabling faster connection speeds and more reliable mobile connectivity.

The UK continues to lag behind, while around the world more than 40 countries are already reaping the benefits of national 4G roll-out. Although initial 4G services will be rolled out across ten cities in the UK this month, by the end of 2012 the majority of the UK population will still not be able to make use of 4G – a situation which a third (32%) of consumers consider to be frustrating or unfair.

Clare Gilmartin, vice president of eBay Marketplaces, Europe commented:

“Mobile devices have become virtual stores in our pockets, giving us the ability to shop anytime, anywhere. But for consumers, it’s critical that the experience is quick, seamless and simple. Slow browsing speeds and breaking connections are now significant barriers to mobile commerce – and this comes at a high price.

“While we welcomed the move by Ofcom to bring the 4G spectrum auction forward to early 2013 there’s no doubt, as this research shows, that for the UK economy the cost of another Christmas without universal 4G is huge.  Consumers are increasingly demanding a better experience, regardless of their network. We hope that the Government will work quickly come the New Year to ensure its promise to deliver 4G for all by the end of 2013 is realised.”



  • Founded in 1999, is the UK’s largest online market place, providing a platform for more than 17m unique visitors per month to buy and sell new, unique and used items in a fun and easy way.
  • eBay has around 60 million live listings on the UK site, with fixed price goods accounting for the majority (65%) of items sold globally and growing 13% YoY.
  • receives around as many visitors per month as London’s Oxford Street.
  • Sellers of all sizes, including 190,000 registered businesses and more than 100 well-known brands and retailers use to reach the UK’s largest online shopping audience.
  • is owned by eBay Inc, which has expanded to include a range of brands that help consumers find and purchase the goods they want including eBay, PayPal,, RedLaser, Milo and others.


eBay mobile facts

  • eBay mobile applications are available in more than 190 countries and eight languages.
  • eBay mobile apps have been downloaded more than 100 million times globally.
  • In the UK an item is purchased every second using the eBay app.

[1] Research commissioned by eBay, conducted by Conlumino, calculated the combined cost per head of:

  1. Existing shoppers not spending as much as they usually would because of slow connection speeds
  2. Potential shoppers not using mobile because of slow connection speeds

[2] The research revealed that direct mobile sales will be worth a predicted £373m this Christmas.