Australian mobile service pricing dropped 3.1% last year

Posted: 21 March 2018 12:08 pm

ACCC report shows we're ever more hungry for mobile and fixed line data, but paying far less for it over time.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its report into the pricing of telecommunications services for the 2016-2017 financial year. It shows that we're increasingly wanting and using more data, but on average paying less for it.

The ACCC puts those price cuts down to the heavy competition present in the telecommunications sector. "At a time when affordability in energy markets is a major concern, competition in the broadband and mobile market is continuing to benefit consumer," said Delia Rickard, ACCC Acting Chair.

Fixed Internet service prices are down 9.4% annually, while mobile broadband pricing has dipped 6.7%. Mobile service pricing is down, albeit by not as wide a margin, with a 3.1% drop according to the report.

Breaking out the figures in a little more depth, the ACCC's report shows that we're seeing a general acceleration in price competition in real terms, although it does note that its figures are adjusted for "non-price characteristics, consumer spending patterns, and inflation".

Across most service types there's an average drop, although notably, prepaid service prices went up marginally in the report's covered financial year. The report does note that prepaid plans do dominate the low price space for mobile plans. 20% of prepaid plan offerings come in under $20 per recharge, compared to only 17% of postpaid plans.

Our usage of services is also accelerating strongly, especially in mobile and data terms. While the number of fixed line calling minutes dropped by 3 billion minutes, that's more than offset by a jump of 7 billion calling minutes on mobiles in the same time span.

All up, Australians spent 66 billion minutes chatting on mobiles in the 2016-2017 period, or the equivalent of around 125,500 consecutive years. That's roughly around 90 minutes per Australian per day. It's a good job then that there are so many mobile plans with unlimited standard calls as part of the package.

It's in the data sphere that the growth is most evident, with data usage up 43% year on year. While it's tempting to think of mobile data as the key driver, it seems we're all still addicted to the unlimited data offerings of fixed line services, with a staggering 92% of downloads coming via fixed line broadband offerings.

Not that we're automatically happy with our services. The report notes that complaints to both the ACCC and Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) increased markedly during the reporting period. The ACCC saw a 58% rise, while the TIO hit an increase of nearly 40% in complaint volume. The NBN appears to be a primary driver for complaints, with a 159% rise in NBN-related complaints compared to the previous year.

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