Mobile broadband subscriptions top wired

Mobile broadband subscriptions top wired

Summary: Despite the number of mobile internet subscriptions overtaking the number of fixed internet subscriptions in Australia, the mobile subscriptions don't come anywhere near to matching the download volume of fixed subscriptions, according to the latest stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).


Despite the number of mobile internet subscriptions overtaking the number of fixed internet subscriptions in Australia, the mobile subscriptions don't come anywhere near to matching the download volume of fixed subscriptions, according to the latest stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The total number of mobile broadband subscriptions (excluding mobile handsets) jumped from 4.9 million to 5.6 million between June and December 2011, bringing it over the number of fixed DSL, cable and fibre subscriptions at 5.5 million. Fixed subscriptions only increased from 5.4 million to 5.5 million in the same period.

But despite these mobile broadband subscriptions making up nearly half of all internet connections in Australia, the mobile subscribers aren't matching fixed data usage.

Fixed downloads continued to skyrocket, jumping by 26.4 per cent from 254,947 terabytes (TB) in the six months to June 2011 to 322,280TB in the six months to December 2011. Wireless did see an increase, but it was smaller at 20.9 per cent from 19,149TB to 23,142TB. This means mobile downloads made up 6.7 per cent of all downloads in December, a decrease from approximately 7 per cent in June.

This came despite Telstra launching its long-term evolution (LTE) "4G" mobile network in that period, providing much faster download speeds than had previously been available. The company estimated that it had sold 100,000 dongles in the second half of the year.

The ABS has also reported statistics for Australians accessing the internet from their mobile handsets. The total number of mobile phone subscriptions that accessed the internet jumped from 9.7 million in June to 11 million in December 2011. The ABS also reported that in the three months from October to the end of December 2011, those mobile users downloaded 5000TB of data.

Internet service provider consolidation

iiNet spent a good portion of the second half of 2011 on an acquisition rampage, bringing many to question whether competition in the telco industry was suffering because of consolidation. In its statistics, the ABS provided proof that the internet service provider (ISP) industry is shrinking.

In the 12 months from December 2010 to December 2011, the total number of ISPs in Australia shrank from 104 to 91. The vast majority of this drop came from smaller ISPs with between 1001 and 10,000 customers, whose numbers dropped from 71 to 58. The number of ISPs with between 10,001 and 100,000 customers increased from 21 to 23, while the number of big ISPs with over 100,000 customers dropped from 12 to 10.

Topics: Telcos, Government AU, Mobility


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • NBNCo should be concerned by the continued jump in wireless broadband subscriptions. The NBNCo Corporate Plan ( predicts that 50% will connect at 12/1Mbps (page 118). The NBNCo services will cost more than mobile wireless and deliver slower speeds than 4G (30/10Mbps is achievable in many areas now).

    For someone who is a light user then tethering their mobile phone to browse facebook, ebay and read emails could be essentially cost them zero dollars as many plans now include data and some operators (e.g. Optus) don't counting social media sites in quotas.

    NBNCo are predicting on page 116 that 13% of premises passed by fibre will choose mobile wireless because it is cheaper. NBNCo's challenge is that with it costing only $5 more to double the speed to 25/5Mbps the 50% connecting at 12/1Mbps can hardly care about internet performance and may well try wireless.
    • Hi mathew, nice to see you've taken your WP rantings over to ZDNet, where I see they haven't banned you yet from talking about "50% 12/1".

      As many on WP has already pointed out to you, the Corporate Plan is just a prediction, a very conservative one, and an old/outdated one at that. Considering neither Telstra nor Optus are even going to offer mainstream 12/1 NBN accounts, their slowest being 25 Mbps, I'd say that prediction should now be ignored. And if NBN Co were able to make it work, financially, with 50% 12/1, then it bodes well for them that it's looking more and more like 50% 25/5 (it it wasn't clear, NBN makes more money on faster connections than on lower ones).

      The fact of the matter is, in relation to this report, is that increasingly, the bulk of data downloads are being done via fixed line infrastructure - and this is before the NBN is even rolled out to most homes when people will have even faster and more reliable connections to the Internet (and so access to services with even higher data requirements, such as HD video streaming, conferencing - thus further increasing the reliance on fixed line networks to carry data).

      Even for those that use their mobile devices for Internet, it appears they still mostly rely on fixed line infrastructure for most of their downloads. See this report for example:

      Note the quote "Globally, 70 per cent of smartphone internet traffic is transmitted over Wi-Fi" - I'd say this number is even higher for tablets, and will get higher as people watch more movies on their mobile devices at home.
      • A couple of things to consider when looking at these numbers.

        Main differences:
        Large Downloads (GB or TB)
        Faster speeds
        More Established (been around longer)
        Cheaper on a $/GB basis
        Excess usage is usually slowed (no financial penalties)

        Small Downloads
        Slower Speeds
        Inconsistent Connections
        Cheaper Entry Prices
        Excess Usage charged not slowed (usually)

        Because of that last point, i would expect most people would avoid using their broadband heavily. I know many people who either turn it off completely or who highly ration themselves to avoid problems. Most people don't like $1000+ bills turning up out of the blue. However as mobile moves towards excess usage just slowing the connection (a pattern that has already started) then more people will be willing to download as their isn't a financial risk. Also of interest would be the % increase in download quotos, if fixed has increased more as a % than mobile, that would of course favour the fixed connections, whereas if mobiles quotas were to increase more as a % than fixed in the next quarter. the opposite may be true.

        Ultimately the time period is far too short to assume any long-term trends from this information.
        • "Ultimately the time period is far too short to assume any long-term trends from this information".

          But in relation to the NBN which has only been around a few years, as opposed to wireless which has been around for many, many years, you want to point to and negative NBN trends now, to try to prove it unviable...?

  • @mathew42, Wireless is not as much of a threat as you might think. As all mobile phone towers will be switching to NBN links, NBNco will earn revenue from mobile providers as well. Also, (if it ever nears completion) the NBN will take on more connections as 3g/ 4g get towards there saturation points and more people will setup wireless in there own homes. 3g in my area is at 98.8% saturation allready.
  • But if you take off the heavier users off of the wireless networks (especially in ADSL blackspots) then it will free up significant amounts of spectrum.

    Telstra won't be using NBNCo fibre for backhaul. I doubt that Optus will be for the majority of fibre. Thirdly the revenue would be significantly less than for deployment to premises.
    • Tell us again for about the 50, 000th time, which page of the Corporate Plan was that 50% 21/1 on again...LOL!
      • 12/1... d'oh
  • Beta says "Tell us again for about the 50, 000th time, which page of the Corporate Plan was that 50% 21/1 on again...LOL!"
    Avid Gamer sitting in front row of classroom eagerly puts hand up for teacher to spot.
    Pick me!, pick me! I know, I know it's page 116
    Avid Gamer
    • ...and why do you know?
      • Because master mathew42 has told us about 50,000 times of the Corporate Plan 50% 12/1 take up rate, blah! blah! even though we all know it's a prediction and a conservative one at that. Plus it's a Corporate Plan that is now outdated and a new one is coming out soon I believe.
        Avid Gamer
        • +1
        • Of course though Avid Gamer, we all know that instead of any alterations to the Corp plan being taken as positive's, because it will give a clearer, more up to date picture of the NBN build, there are those who for whatever their agendas will simply argue that it's an admission that the original Corp. plan and therefore the NBN was/is flawed.

          Ignoring that estimating, particularly on such a vast project is not an exact art...!
  • It will be interesting to see the jump in the next 6 months... There has been a large shift in mobile broadband because of the issues with Vodafone who were the cheapest. Given some really good plans from telstra over the last few months and the new LTE card I would say it's hard to make a real judgement about whether the trend in this report will continue or we will see a greater increase in wireless downloading. Given the New LTE network is faster the fixed line services I can't see this not increasing. Cost are greater on the Wireless networks but this is changing quite quickly. Telstra's new shared plans for business will change this very quickly as companies realise it's now quite easy and cheap to substitute adsl for LTE for everyone at home... We are looking at this as a good addition to our service people's equipment.