Australian data usage continues to boom

Alex Kidman 30 November 2016

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Our appetite for data, both broadband and mobile, knows no sating.

It’s no secret that the quantity of data you can get on a mobile plan has been increasing at a remarkable rate, while at the same time, unlimited broadband plans for home users are fast becoming the norm. Figures from the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Communications report 2015–16 suggest that this is just the tip of the iceberg, with Australian data consumption showing no signs of slowing down.

Australians have downloaded a hefty 2.2 million terabytes of data in the quarter to June 2016 alone. That’s a 114% increase on the same period two years ago. The majority of that data download was done via fixed line broadband services, accounting for 92% of data usage.

That's not to say that we’re not also hungry for more mobile data, with usage figures increasing by 69% over the quarter to June 2016 compared to the same time a year ago. As you might expect, at the same time, fixed line telephony continues its slow decline, dropping 4% at a time when mobile subscriptions grew 2.6%.

So what’s driving all that data consumption? It's not so much that more of us are getting online, because the vast majority of Australians are already there, with 91% of Australians having accessed the Internet in the six months to May 2016, and 68% of adults accessing online services several times a day. Instead, the report suggests that it’s the explosive growth in online video content that’s eating up all those terabytes.

63% of Australians watched online video content in the six months to June 2016, although that’s primarily been driven by free catchup services such as ABC’s iView or SBS’ On Demand platforms. 44% of online video viewers used those types of services, while 41% viewed other free online content, 32% viewed through subscription services (such as Netflix or Stan) and just 9% viewed pay per view content that way.

That’s good news for catchup TV services, but conversely bad news for their general broadcast arms. The report notes that 84% of Australian adults in the five major cities watched at least 5 minutes of FTA television in an average week in 2015–16, compared to 89& in 2010–11. Regionally it’s even worse, with figures dropping from 87% to 81% in the same period.

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