NBN users download more data per month than national average

Those already connected to the NBN are downloading a monthly average of 112GB of data per month -- 30GB more than the national average across all ISPs.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Users on the National Broadband Network (NBN) are ahead of the national average data usage curve, according to statistics released today by both NBN and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

NBN's traffic report for December 2015 showed that the average total data usage among its users was 128GB per month. Of this, downloads accounted for 112GB per month for NBN users, and uploads were 16GB per month.

By comparison, the ABS reported that the total volume of data downloaded over fixed-line connections for internet service providers (ISPs) with more than 1,000 subscribers was 1.67TB.

Spread across the 6.8 million total non-mobile broadband subscribers in Australia, this amounted to an average of 82GB downloaded per user per month during the three months ending December 2015.

According to the ABS, the total data downloaded over fixed-line connections over the three-month period amounted to a 50.4 percent increase year on year, while NBN reported a 38 percent increase between December 2014 and December 2015.

Dennis Steiger, the CTO of NBN, attributed this increasing use of data to the popularity of streaming services.

"Australian households are more connected than ever before. The findings reveal our nation has well and truly embraced the global streaming revolution as services such as Netflix, Stan, and Presto have redefined the way we view and consume content," Steiger said.

"The significant increase in usage over the NBN network tells us the more bandwidth Australians have, the more content we want to consume. With forecasts showing the amount of connected devices is predicted to grow from nine to 29 by 2020, access to fast broadband will be critical in allowing us to continue to enjoy uninterrupted viewing on multiple devices at the same time."

Analyst firm Ovum in November predicted the rate of streaming subscriptions within Australia to reach 4.707 million subscribers by 2019.

The continuing rise of SVOD services will put pressure on the networks and capacity in Australia, Ovum added, which could be eased by the NBN's rollout of ubiquitous, high-speed broadband -- streaming in HD only requires an average connection speed of 5Mbps, Ovum said, a target that NBN will be well able to meet.

Australian ISPs have struggled with delivering quality services after the initial launch of Netflix. Ovum identified the issue as being the cause of capacity in the backhaul, long-distance transit, and high-capacity core networks that support the last-mile networks, rather than basic access speeds in the last mile itself.

"The recent boom in subscription video-on-demand services, driven by the launch of Netflix, Stan, and Presto in Australia, was accompanied by a sharp rise in network data traffic," the report said.

"Average monthly download usage on the NBN network was 73GB in March 2015, but was 110GB by September, a rise of 51 percent in just six months. Some capacity problems arose [as a result of] this sudden increase in demand."

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) also released a snapshot report of the streaming industry in Australia in November, reporting that 3.2 million Australians, or 17 percent of the population, consumed streaming services during the six months to June 2015.

The ACMA estimated that as of June, Netflix Australia had 2.5 million users. Netflix has yet to release any results from its operations in Australia, but Roy Morgan released statistics in May stating that 1 million Australians were using the service. Should the ACMA's numbers be accurate, Netflix gained 1.5 million customers in Australia within one month.

Ovum later claimed that despite the Telstra TV launch and Optus' English Premier League rights victory, pay TV will keep growing, and telecommunications carriers will never be the major providers of media content.

To deal with the growing use of data thanks to streaming services, NBN on Tuesday announced its new discounted CVC wholesale pricing structure that involves a series of industry-wide tiers.

The CVC charge reserves a consumer's bandwidth from the point of interconnect, and will now see a dimension-based discount pricing structure to encourage more dimensioning of CVC capacity -- or greater usage of data.

The new pricing structure, to be implemented for two years starting on June 1, will be calculated as an average of CVC dimensioning per end user across all customers on the NBN.

"The broadband market is changing, and consumption continues to boom. We have seen average usage on the NBN network increase from 75 gigabytes in February 2015 to 125 gigabytes today," NBN CEO Bill Morrow said.

"We know increased usage has presented challenges to our retailers, and we have consulted with them on a new CVC pricing model that creates greater flexibility and opportunity for the industry -- acknowledging that broadband use is expanding."

The CVC pricing faced criticism from Optus vice president of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs David Epstein, Vocus COO Scott Carter, and Superloop CEO Bevan Slattery, however, who said an RSP-by-RSP model would be better.

Carter said the price needs to be lowered to address a "bandwidth tsunami", with data usage on Vocus swelling by up to 60 percent in the last year.

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