ACMA Report 2014-2015

The Australian Consumer and Media Authority (ACMA) has released its 2014-2015 Communications Report. This provides a fascinating and comprehensive annual snapshot of the communications and internet habits of Australia’s population. Don't nod off - it's actually really interesting.

It’s a long document – and if you want to read it in its entirety, it can be obtained here – but for now I’ll just discuss some of the highlights.

DATA USAGE

As expected, data usage by Australians rose sharply in the last twelve months, on both fixed and mobile networks. In total, we downloaded 1,349,975 terabytes of data in the 3 months to June 2015, a dramatic increase of 41% over the previous June quarter.

This increase is primarily due to the launch of over-the-top (OTT) video services in Australia at the beginning of 2015, primarily Netflix and to a lesser extent Stan and Presto. As of June 2015, 11% of Australians watch Netflix in a given week.

Other factors have also contributed to this increase, such as the dramatic take-up of affordable cloud services. Increasingly even home users are using cloud storage to back up their media libraries. This has been enabled by continued improvements in data plan pricing. Both fixed and mobile data is cheaper than ever.

MOBILE

On the mobile front, the LTE (4G) networks of the major Australian telcos continue to expand. All three networks now service well in excess of 90% of the metropolitan population. These networks are now faster than they’ve ever been. Telstra’s 4GX network, for example, can sometimes attained download speeds in excess of 100Mbps, and uploads over 40Mbps (emphasis on ‘sometimes’).

At the same time, more Australians than ever before are using smartphones. There are now 13.41 million Australians using a smartphone, and increase over 1 million from the previous 12 months. 70% of Australian adults accessed the internet from their mobile device. About a quarter of us (26%) accessed the internet over 5 or more devices, though I would guess not simultaneously.

As a consequence, mobile data usage has shown an enormous increase. Australians in June 2015 used 85% more data than in June 2014. Mobile downloads now total 71,572Tb per quarter.

Mobile evangelists should take note, however: this is only about 5.3% of total data usage, meaning that fixed networks still enable the overwhelming majority of traffic.

OTT Services

I’ve mentioned Netflix already, but it’s worth emphasising just what a difference this has made to our viewing and data habits. Critics of the NBN often point out that it will only be used to watch videos over the internet. To paraphrase Peter Altenberg: ‘What’s so ‘only’?’ Whether one has a moral quibble with it or not, the reality is that there is an vast demand for these services, and a commensurate need for infrastructure to provide it.

53% of Australians, or about 9.6 million people, watched professionally produced online video content in the 6 months to June 2015 (that is, excluding Youtube and other sharing services). About 34% of people do so each week.

Strong as the demand for online video is, though, traditional free-to-air television remains the most used form of viewing. 59% of adults will watch at least one free-to-air program in a given week.

Moving away from video:

  • About 5 million people regularly use a VoIP service.
  • 65% of Australians use social networking, a yearly increase of about 4%.
  • 77% of online adults used online banking.

Industry

In further good news, complaints to the TIO fell by about 10%. However, complaints to ACMA about offensive online content rose by 18%.

There was a minor decrease in calls to emergency services (1.2%)