NBN 101: The need for speed

A look at the trends in speeds and downloads over the Internet

Australia joins the fray

Domestically, the best source of empirical evidence for Internet usage is the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The NBN Implementation Study does reference ABS stats for the average downloads an Australian Internet user – or more accurately one connection to the Internet (this could include family home connections) – over any given month, which it says is between 2-5GB.

(NBN Implementation Study: The graphs and charts)

A closer look at the ABS Internet Activity Survey, which began in September 2000 and obtains its data directly from ISPs, reveals Australians have adopted faster speeds at a steady rate while also consuming more and more data; mirroring global research.

(Note – all connection speeds are advertised speeds and are not necessarily reflective of the average speeds users experience).

The December quarter, 2000, ABS Internet Activity Survey included the following findings:

  • We had 3.9 million Internet subscribers in total (3.4 million were households, the rest business and government)
  • We downloaded an average of 286MB per month overall (1050 million megabytes in total). Households averaged 171MB while business and government subscribers managed an average of 912MB per month.
  • 3.7 million Internet users, or 97 per cent of the total, had a 56Kbps dial up connection. The ABS did not have statistics for those using DSL at the time, but noted there were less than 40 ISPs (out of more than 600) providing the technology.

Going forward three years to the survey for the September quarter in 2003, the ABS found:

  • A total of 5.2 million subscribers (with household subscribers accounting for 4.5 million of those).
  • We downloaded and average of 901MB per month overall (for a total of 4665 million megabytes). Households averaged 739MB per month while business and government subscribers averaged 1963MB.
  • The number of subscribers by download speed of access connection was collected for the first time. Using its broadband definition to include any connection of equal to or greater speed than 256Kbps, the ABS found there were 657,000 subscribers fitting this description at the end of September 2003.
  • In the September quarter the number of dial up subscribers fell by two per cent to take the proportion of subscribers using this technology below 90 per cent for the first time to 4,522,000.
  • In the same quarter, DSL subscribers grew by 78 per cent to 372,000; just over four per cent of total subscribers.
  • Over three quarters of business and government subscribers (total of 696,000) received less than 256kbps. Only one per cent had a connection faster than 2Mbps.
  • “Non dial-up subscribers accounted for over 67 per cent of the total data downloaded reflecting the much faster download speeds available.”

The ABS Internet Activity Survey for the September 2006 quarter published the following results:

  • There were 6.65 million Internet subscribers (5.83 million were households).
  • We downloaded an average 5435.79MB per month (for a total of 36,148 million megabytes). Households averaged 5045.45MB per month while business and government subscribers averaged 8210.96MB.
  • Non-dial up subscribers accounted for 33,931 million megabytes of the total downloaded amount of data.
  • Dial-up subscribers totalled 2.75 million, while non-dial up rose to 3.91 million.
  • DSL was the dominant access technology with 2.99 million subscribers.
  • Wireless began showing growth with 186,000 subscribers.
  • 19 per cent of the total 820,000 business and government subscribers had a connection speed of 1.5Mbps or greater,
  • 17 per cent of household subscribers (978,000) had a connection speed of 1.5Mbps or greater.

The most recent survey results were for the December quarter in 2009. They showed:

  • We had 9.1 million Internet subscribers (households accounted for 7,459,000).
  • The average amount of data downloaded per month was roughly 14,909MB (for a rough total of 135,674 million megabytes or 135,674 terabytes). The ABS did not differentiate between households and business or government subscribers in this survey.
  • Nearly 90 per cent of connections were non-dial up.
  • DSL accounted for 51 per cent of connections; decreasing from 57 per cent in June 2009 when it was at 57 per cent, due to a sharp increase in mobile wireless via data card, dongle or USB modem (mobile phone data was not counted). This kind of connection increased to 2.8 million subscribers. Note, however, that the ABS does not collect data on whether these subscribers have both a DSL and wireless connection.
  • There were 935,000 cable or fibre subscribers.
  • For business and government subscribers the most common connection speed was 1.5Mbps to 8Mbps (913,000) with 42,000 getting 24Mbps or greater.
  • For households, the most common connection was 1.5Mbps to 8Mbps (2,281,000), followed by 8Mbps to 24Mbps (1,766,000) and 512Kbps to 1.5Mbps (1,201,000). There were 469,000 connections with an advertised speed of 24Mbps or greater.

The ABS statistics clearly show Australian households and businesses / government agencies have continued to adopt faster speeds and download more data at a consistent rate.

The following graphs illustrate this point:

NBN arguments 101: The Need for Speed

NBN arguments 101: The Need for Speed

NBN arguments 101: The Need for Speed

NBN arguments 101: The Need for Speed

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