ACMA's Communications Report 2012-2013

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has just released its new Communications Report report for 2012-2013. It provides a detailed exploration of how Australians use their digital communications devices – mobile phones, fixed lines, tablets, PCs and laptops. Primarily focussing on the June quarter for 2013, it is a fascinating read.

Here are some highlights:

Australians downloaded over 676 terabytes of data in the June quarter, and increase of 59% over the equivalent period in 2012. That is an enormous increase, and backs up widespread industry forecasting of data usage trends.

Of that, 93% was downloaded over fixed line internet connections. As everyone besides Alan Jones listeners, Andrew Bolt commenters and a small proportion of the nation’s livestock are aware, fixed line networks are where the heavy lifting occurs when it comes to data consumption. The ACMA suggests that the surge in data consumption is primarily driven by online content streaming (video on demand, IPTV etc.) and cloud computing services. Over 14 million people now access cloud services, and 11% increase.

Indeed, the average fixed line broadband user downloaded about 107Gb of data in the June quarter (while the average mobile broadband user consumed 1Gb). For those who suggest that an NBN is waste because everyone uses mobiles, bear this in mind: Telstra is the most popular mobile provider in Australia. Based on my napkin maths, the most cost-effective way to get 107Gb of mobile data on Telstra would cost about $850 per month. Vodafone, historically the most generous when it comes to mobile data, would cost about the same. On Optus it would cost well over $1,000 per month. If you went with PAYG, it'd be astronomically higher. Meanwhile there are fixed line broadband plans from many ISPs that provide considerably more data allowance than 107Gb for $50 per month or less.

21% of the Australian adult population (3.68 million people) have only a mobile phone, with no fixed line services. This has increased 18%.

11.19 million people own a smartphone, yet only 7.5 million of those actually use it to go online. Weird disparity there, suggesting that nearly 4 million people aren’t truly harnessing their device’s capabilities, and would be as well-served by a cheaper device.

E-commerce has surged: online sales revenue from Australian businesses reached $237 billion in 2011-2012, an increase of 25% over the previous year. Meanwhile online banking is now used by 12.86 million Australians.

Most Australians are getting online using multiple means. 39% of users access the internet on 4 or more devices, while 23% use 3 devices regularly. Most mobile internet users also have a home fixed internet service. And bear in mind that while each mobile user has an individual data allowance, one home internet plan is typically shared across an entire household.

VoIP usage has increased by about 6%, with a 150% increase on tablets alone. Mostly this increase is in services such as Skype.

In my own household, which has two adults and two children, we have two iPhones, a Nexus 7 tablet, three laptops in regular use, a desktop PC, and an ADSL2+ connection with 200Gb of data. We generally consume about 40-50Gb of that each month. I’d assumed we were heavy users, and my wife insists we have way too many devices. Now I can tell her we are, if anything, slightly below average.

Click here for a Youtube presentation of ACMA's Our Digital Life report.