Tuesday, October 08, 2013

ABS Internet Activity - June 2013

The latest version of the ABS series 8153.0 - Internet Activity, Australia was released today.

This is an incredibly useful series, but one that inexplicably the ABS seems to continually wilfully misrepresent in its accompanying media releases.

In the period from June 2011 to Jun 2012 as the number of wireless broadband connections passed the number of fixed the ABS reported the stats using proportions in such a way as to suggest the actual number of fixed connections was declining rather than merely growing at a slower rate.

Over the last three halves the ABS has gathered data on mobile handsets but as far as I can tell only includes the data in its summary and not in the actual data tables.

That doesn't stop them screeching about it though.

Today's full media release is fascinating. 

Australian mobile handset downloads surge

 Nearly 20,000 terabytes of data was downloaded by Australians with internet access connections via a mobile handset in the three months to June 2013, which is an increase of 6,000 terabytes according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

"Download volumes for mobile handsets have really seen explosive growth," said Lesley Martin from the ABS, "and while it's true that the number of mobile handset internet subscribers has also increased, that's been much smaller growth."

The total volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets between April and June 2013 was 19,636 terabytes, which is a 43 percent increase from the previous period of October to December 2012.

Between December 2012 and June 2013, the number of mobile handset internet subscribers grew by 13 percent.

"Mobile handset downloads contribute a small percentage of our total internet downloads - in the three months to June, Australia's total download volume hit 657,000 terabytes, which is up 18 percent compared to the three months ended December," Ms Martin said.

"Australia had 12,358,000 internet subscribers - not including mobile handsets - at the end of June 2013, showing a three percent annual increase.

"In pure percentage terms fibre has been the fastest growing type of connection, with a 26 percent increase since December 2012; but it should be remembered that this growth is from a low base.

"There's now 115,000 fibre connections compared to 6.2 million mobile wireless broadband connections such as a dongle or tablet SIM card, 4.8 million by DSL, 93,000 by satellite, and 227,000 still on dial-up."

Further information is available in Internet Activity, Australia, June 2013 (cat. no. 8153.0) available for free download from
The headline and first paras screech about mobile handset download growth.  Only much later do you get to the real story that the handsets are a very small share of the overall data.

Let's just look at the three main trends.

First there is the total number of connections.

The number of fixed and wireless data connections both continue to grow slowly.  They are dwarfed by handset connections which tend to be personal whereas connections tend to be for households.

Then there is the total downloads.

And while there has been a surge in the total data downloaded by handsets as a proportion it really is a miniscule amount.

The best measure is the download per month per service.

This is the biggest killer for both the claims of both wireless (dongles etc) and handsets versus fixed broadband.  The downloads per service per month continue to increase on fixed and barely move for the others. 
Another way to look at this is the proportion of all data that is downloaded over fixed line versus wireless and handsets.

Overall fixed line is slowly taking an even greater share of the overall traffic.
It is no wonder that Malcolm Alder, an author of the NBN Implementation Study, is reported by the AFR today as saying the NBN may result in fewer "mobile only" households than first thought.
Assuming that the proportion of mobile only would actually be greater was one of Malcolm Turnbull's four bases for asserting a higher cost for the NBN.  It was the only one which NBN Co itself had not earlier refuted.
So, simply put, the ABS release is misleading in the extreme.  The data continues to support the need for a fixed broadband network engineered for continued growth in data demand.

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