The need for higher speeds and increased data caps has been highlighted by an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) study which found that Australian internet users downloaded an average 18.8 gigabytes of data per user as of December 2010.
The report, entitled The internet service market and Australians in the online environment, noted that in December 2009 the average was 14.6 gigabytes per user.
ACMA chairperson, Chris Chapman, said in a statement that this was in part due to the increased downloading of video content. For example, 5.5 million Australians accessed video streaming sites such as YouTube and Google Video from home during December, compared to 5.1 million in March 2010.
He added that the number of local internet subscribers rose by 17 per cent in 2010.
"The average amount of data downloaded increased by a further 29 per cent over the same period. These increases reflect the ongoing digital boom in online social and economic activity,' Chapman said.
He added that this has had a positive effect for internet service providers, with 46 per cent of consumer internet subscribers now using services with an advertised maximum download of 8 megabits per second (Mbps) or faster, compared to 30 per cent in December 2009.
E-commerce sites such as Ebay and social networking services were some of the main attractions getting people online, with 7.4 million persons accessing retail and auction websites, 8.4 million accessing social networking sites and 5.5 million accessing video streaming sites at home.
As of December 2010, ACMA's report found there were approximately 10.4 million internet subscribers in Australia using fixed and mobile wireless services with another 8.2 million using mobile phone handsets in the business, government and consumer sectors. According to the report, mobile wireless subscriber numbers increased by 49 per cent in the 12 months to December 2010.
In addition, 3.1 million people accessed the internet via their mobile phone handset, compared to 1.9 million in December of the year before.
However, Chapman said that consumers have not abandoned traditional internet access over fixed lines, with 98 per cent of mobile phone internet users continuing to use the internet via a computer.
'This perhaps suggests that internet access via mobile phone handsets is developing as a complementary service, rather than a substitute,' Chapman said.
"It is also notable that digital convergence is transforming how consumers can access the internet, moving beyond the mobile phone and computer to encompass a wider range of consumer electronic devices - such as the TV set."
The report is part of ongoing research by ACMA into communications trends and how these impact consumers. Over the next six months it plans to produce more reports on the Digital Economy.