As the National Broadband Network delivery trucks continue their eight year journey around the country, regional businesses are crying out for faster fixed speeds.
Across Australia, only 1.1 percent of businesses have a fibre to the premises (FttP) broadband connection — a figure that hasn't moved in the last 12 months. And it's not much higher amongst the one-third of businesses that are classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as innovative in their approach; only 1.3 percent of these are connected by FttP.
Larger companies in the big cities find it easier to move to FttP, of course; almost one-fifth of the companies employing 200 or more people are already connected. It is the smaller businesses, many in regional Australia, which will have to wait.
Short term improvements to DSL coverage is helping provide a short term fix, adding weight to the argument that businesses will move to faster fixed speeds if they are available. In 2009-10, 15 percent of innovative 5-19 person companies relied on wireless as their main broadband connection; now, it's down to 7 percent. During that time, the percentage of DSL subscriptions has increased to 77 percent — a sure sign that wireless doesn't make the grade for most small businesses.
The drop in the use of wireless as the primary broadband connection has been biggest in the professional services and retail sectors. In a year, use of wireless connectivity has halved amongst professional service organisations. In retail, fixed wireless has halved, while mobile broadband connectivity has held its ground; 84 percent of retail business though, still use DSL.
Only real estate bucks the trend, with an increasing number of companies claiming that mobile wireless is their primary form of broadband connectivity, reflecting better networks, and the need to be on the road selling. Even so, three quarters still say that DSL is their main connection type.
The figures, from the ABS Selected Characteristics of Australian Business that was released last month, seem to indicate that, if we had better fixed networks, more businesses would move to them. Otherwise, how do we account for the fact that, despite the improvements in mobile coverage and the introduction of 4G, more businesses are moving away from wireless as their primary broadband connection?