ACMA 2014 Communications Report

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released its annual Communications Report for 2013-2014. It charts Australian telecommunications and data trends over the last twelve months.

Since the Report arrived with rather less fanfare than, say, the teaser for the new Star Wars film, there’s a chance you may have missed it. It’s also rather longer, coming in at perusal-resistant 130 pages. Luckily, Dog and Bone has perused it on your behalf. Here are the highlights:

1. DATA USAGE

- Overall data downloads have increased from 676,898TB in the 2013 June quarter to 1,034,959TB in the 2014 June quarter, an increase in 52.9%.

- This is the first time Australians downloaded more than a million terabytes in a single quarter. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie...

- Breaking those figures down, mobile handset downloads increased by 97.3%, for the first time eclipsing the amount downloaded via mobile broadband connections, which only increased by 20.2%. This reflects the increasing sophistication of mobile handsets, and the increasing use of tethering.

- Don’t let those numbers fool you, though! Mobile data usage remains a mere drop in the bucket. Fixed data downloads increased by 52.9%, to 963,429TB. Fixed data usage thus accounts for about 93% of total downloads for the most recent quarter.

- This is why we’re building a National Broadband Network (and why those who continue to insist that mobile data is the way of the future should be ignored.) Fixed data requirements continue to trend sharply upwards, and it is thus only a question of when the current MTM version of the NBN will need to be upgraded to full FttP. The answer is: very soon.

- The average fixed line broadband subscriber downloads 155Gb in the quarter (or about 50Gb per month). Those aren’t heavy users – that’s the average user.

- The number of registered ISPs in Australia decreased from 77 to 71, reflecting ongoing (yet slowing) market consolidation.

- 4G mobile data usage showed very strong growth across all carriers. Vodafone launched its 4G network in this period, while both Optus and Telstra expanded their networks dramatically. Augmenting this is the fact that an increasing number of customers renewed their 24 month contracts in this period, an enjoyed a much larger pool of 4G handsets to choose from.

2. PHONE USAGE

- Total mobile services (voice and data) fell by 0.3%, which is the first time this has occurred. This can be attributed to a decrease in use of mobile broadband devices (dongles, USB modems etc), since the number of actual phones rose by 4.7%, to over 20.5 million. Of this, smartphone use rose by 7.9%, owing to the increasing penetration of inexpensive yet high-quality handsets.

- On the other hand (and  not surprisingly), the number of registered fixed line numbers continued to decrease (by 2.4%).

- Overall, trends in telephony usage appear to have flattened out, compared to the drastic shifts of the last decade and a half, although the number of people for whom the mobile phone is their only phone continued to increase (by another 33.2%).

- The number of calls placed to emergency numbers (000, 112 etc.) continued to fall, to about 8.4m, from a high of 9.4m in 2012.

- The number of payphones decreased by 4.9%.

OTHER CATEGORIES

- The overall value of e-commerce increased from $237b to $246b per quarter (3.8%), which is smaller than we would have anticipated.

- There was virtually no change in the number of broadcast licences.

- There was a 9.1% increase in disclosure of customer information to law enforcement agencies, from 685,757 in 2013 to 748,079 in the quarter to June 2014. Bear in mind that is per quarter. That’s quite staggering.

- Complaints to the TIO declined by 12.4%, which is excellent news.

The full ACMA 2013-2014 Communications Report can be downloaded here.