The UK may have been relatively slow out of the 4G starting blocks, but enthusiasm for the technology is among the strongest in Europe, according to a Deloitte survey.

One in five UK respondents is planning to upgrade to the service in the next 12 months, with almost half of smartphone respondents (46 per cent) saying they were likely to choose a 4G phone as their next handset.

Overall, more than one third of survey respondents said they were likely to choose a 4G phone when they replaced their current model.

“The UK was the eighteenth country in EU28 to launch 4G, but it has enjoyed one of the most enthusiastic take-ups for the service in the region,” said Ed Marsden, lead telecoms partner at the business advisory firm.

“With the launch of 4G services and more 4G phones coming to market, 4G subscribers should number in the millions.”

Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte, added: “One key question will be if 4G will change consumers’ behaviour and whether they will use services that require high usage of data. While 4G does make watching streamed TV possible, it is likely to be prohibitively expensive for most consumers. A gigabyte of data costs several pounds, and would only enable between two to four hours of video.”

Deloitte’s research has shown that over one-third (38 per cent) of smartphone owners have been shocked by their mobile bill in the last 12 months. Exceeding the mobile data allowance is cited by 31 per cent as the main reason.

And while heavy data usage is encouraged on 4G, the risks of consumers exceeding their allowance becomes even greater – warns Deloitte – as people tend not to fully understand the cost of using data on their phones.

Although 4G prospects look bright, Wi-Fi remains the main type of connectivity in the UK and this trend, says Deloitte, is unlikely to change soon. Two thirds of UK smartphone owners (67 per cent) said Wi-Fi is the connectivity used most often on their smartphones, an increase from 58 per cent last year.

“Wi-Fi is considered to be faster and more reliable and it also allows consumers to save the data allowance on their phones,” said Lee. “As Wi-Fi usage does not show any signs of slowing down in the near future, the question for operators is how they can persuade smartphone owners to increase their data traffic over the mobile network and entice customers to subscribe to 4G at a premium.”