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Internet subscribers in Australia
Household, business and government subscribers
From 2004 to 2006, the number of total household, business and government Internet connections in Australia increased from 4 611 000 to 5 945 000 (an increase of 29 per cent). The increase in the total number of Internet connections reflects the rapid rise of non-dial up subscriptions underpinned by the shift from dial-up to non dial-up access to the Internet.
The total number of non dial-up (e.g. broadband, wireless) Internet connections in Australia increased substantially from 779 000 in the March Quarter of 2004 to 3 161 000 in the June Quarter of 2006.
The decrease in the total number of dial-up Internet connections from 2004 (3 832 000) to 2006 (2 784 000) reflects the growing popularity of broadband technology in Australia and the resulting migration of subscribers from dial-up to non dial-up services.
Population and household use of PCs and the Internet
Percentage of population aged 14 years and over using the Internet
The online participation of Australians’ has grown over the five years since September 2001. In June 2006, 70 per cent of all Australians aged 14 years and over had used the Internet, compared to 54 per cent in September 2001. The slow rate of increase recorded in recent years may indicate that most Australians seeking access to the Internet now do so.
Points of Internet access
Home and work are the most popular points of Internet access in Australia. In particular, the home is the preferred location with an overwhelming majority of users (87 per cent in June 2006) using it to access the Internet.
Internet users as percentage of area population
The rate of Internet use is growing equally strong in both metropolitan and other areas of Australia. The different levels of Internet access recorded in metropolitan versus other areas may be due to a number of factors including level of income and education, population age, lifestyle and interests.
Use of the Internet by age
Internet usage is increasing in all age groups, with the rate of participation by older Australians in particular gaining ground on the level of participation by younger age groups. Use of the Internet is most popular among younger age groups. However, the 55 year and over age group recorded the largest increase in Internet users since June 2001 (120 per cent increase). The remaining age groups all show strong percentages of Internet use, ranging from 89 per cent of persons in the 14–17 years group, to 78 per cent for the 40–54 years group.
Use of PCs and the Internet by households
By international standards, Australia has a high percentage of households (72 per cent) with use of a personal computer (PC). In addition to this, the proportion of households with Internet access has been rising since the late 1990s to reach 66 per cent in the March Quarter of 2006. The chart above shows that the proportion of households with Internet access had grown increasingly close to the percentage of households with PCs, suggesting that at March 2006, 92 per cent of households with PCs had Internet access.
Business use of selected ICTs
Use of PCs and the Internet by all businesses
The trend for business use of PCs and the Internet is similar to that shown by households. That is, rapid growth in business Internet access, (1998-2001) followed by smaller but constant increases in online participation. In addition to this, the percentage of businesses with websites is growing slowly but steadily.
Use of broadband technology
Use of broadband technology by home Internet users
From 2001 to 2006, there has been a significant shift in the type of Internet access technology—from narrowband to broadband—by most home Internet users in Australia. In June 2006 71 per cent of home Internet users in Australia used broadband. This figure places Australia among a group of highly developed countries (e.g. the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France) where broadband use has become the preferred technology for home Internet access.
Broadband users as percentage of area population and Internet users
In June 2006 a higher proportion (59 per cent) of Internet users in metropolitan areas used broadband technology, compared to users in other areas (48 per cent). Both figures indicate strong take-up of the technology and are consistent with the overall substantial increase in broadband use recorded in Australia over the last 2 years.
Broadband users as percentage of State population
Victoria and New South Wales (NSW)/ Australia’s Capital Territory (ACT) combined are the states with the highest percentage of broadband users as a proportion of their population. Tasmania recorded the lowest percentage with 25 per cent.
Broadband users by age group
Broadband users constitute between 40 and 50 per cent of persons in all age groups, with the exception of the 55 years plus group, in which only 23 per cent of persons use broadband technology for Internet access.
Broadband users by household income
Data presented in the chart beside shows the relationship between household income and broadband adoption; broadband use increases with higher levels of disposable income.
Use of broadband technology by all businesses
Sixty-three (63) per cent of businesses with Internet access in Australia in 2004-2005 used broadband technology. Of these, 68 per cent used a DSL connection, 26 per cent used cable technology, 4 per cent used wireless, and 2 per cent used other broadband technology.
Entry level price of DSL access
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology, together with cable technology, is the broadband service preferred by a majority of Internet users in many countries. This is because of its greater availability and competitive price compared to other broadband technologies. In recent years the entry level price of DSL has shown a general downward trend across most of these countries, with Australia recording a decrease in the price of entry level DSL broadband services from PPP US$22.16 in the June Quarter 2004, to PPP US$18.07 in June 2006.
Entry level price of cable access
While cable is more expensive than DSL, it is still competitive compared to other broadband technologies. The entry level price in Australia fell from US$28.94 in March 2005 to US$21.70 in June 2006.
Impact of broadband technology use on Internet users
The benefits identified most by Internet users as a result of using broadband rather than dial-up technology are the easier downloading of materials (70 per cent) and easiness of sending attachments / files (62 per cent).
Other impacts identified included spending more time online, faster online interactions, and increased easiness of e-commerce.
Selected online activities
Top ten online activities by home broadband users
Electronic mail is the online activity performed by the highest percentage (83 per cent) of home broadband users aged 14 years and over. Other popular activities included general surfing (61 per cent), searching for information on products and checking account balances (60 per cent each).
Top ten online activities by dial up Internet users
The top 10 online activities performed at home by dial-up Internet users and broadband users in June 2006 are the same. The most significant difference between the two sets of data is that a greater proportion of broadband users perform each of the activities compared to dial-up users. This suggests that broadband Internet users are generally more inclined to perform activities online than dial-up users.
Home broadband users performing online activities by age group
A breakdown by age group of online activities performed by home broadband users in Australia in June 2006 shows some substantial differences in terms of what younger Internet users like to do online compared to older users. Participating in interactive discussions, downloading music files, playing games, and accessing educational services, are the online activities preferred by a significant proportion of Internet users aged 14 to 24 years, but not by Internet users aged 25 years and over. Internet users in older age groups, show higher rates of participation in activities such as searching for information on products and travel information, and paying bills online.
Use of banking and financial services
The volume of people making online banking and financial transactions in Australia has been steadily growing in recent years, in spite of apparent increases in security threats. Online banking activities were also spurred by new and more effective forms of protection and security for online transactions available to Internet users.
Buying and selling online
Shopping and selling online has increased from 41 per cent of Internet users aged 14 years and over in September 2001 to 64 per cent in June 2006.
Online activities by all businesses
Forty-three (43) per cent of businesses using the Internet in Australia in 2004-2005 placed order for goods or services online. This was the most performed online activity, followed by electronic lodgement of payments (30 per cent) and electronic lodgement of taxation forms (27 per cent).
Total value of e-commerce
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), “while the proportion of businesses reporting receipt of orders via the Internet or web has remained unchanged over the last few years, the income received from these orders has increased significantly over time. Internet income grew by 19 per cent from $33.3 billion in 2003-04 to $39.6 billion in 2004-05.”
The use of mobile phone technology in Australia has grown significantly over the last five years. Due to this Australia is now a world leader in mobile phone use . This section contains data on the high level of mobile phone technology take-up in Australia, as well as on some of the characteristics (e.g. location, age, income) of users.
Mobile phone users by area
In June 2006, 82 per cent of persons aged 14 years and over in Australia used a mobile phone. Mobile phone users by location were distributed as follows: 83 per cent of the population in metro areas and 80 per cent of the population in other areas.
Mobile phone Users by age group
All age groups show strong rates of mobile phone use, with the age groups 18-24 and 25-39 recording the highest percentages (94 and 91 per cent respectively).
Number of phone calls in the last seven days
Nearly half of mobile phone users in Australia made up to seven calls in June 2006, while 10 per cent made none (e.g. received calls only). Of the remaining users, 25 per cent made 8 to 17 calls, and 16 per cent made 18 or more calls .
Mobile phone users by personal income
Results suggests that mobile phone use increases with increasing levels of income.
On the other hand, the “Under $10,000” income group’s high percentage reflects the popularity of mobile phones among students who traditionally have lower incomes.
Mobile phones: pre-paid or billed use
The majority of mobile phone users either have a contract and receive a monthly bill (38 per cent), or use a pre paid mobile phone account (37 per cent). Eight per cent of users receive a monthly bill but don’t have a contract.
Additional services used by mobile phone users
Among the additional services available to users through their mobile phones, text messaging is the most popular (69 per cent of all users), ahead of accessing voice mail/ message bank (40 per cent).
The remaining services showed much lower levels of use.
Voice over the Internet protocol (VoIP)
VoIP can be defined as telephony services provided via a broadband Internet connection. While standard telephones use the public switched telephone network (PSTN), with VoIP voice traffic travels on Internet Protocol networks. According to CNET “a normal telephone service turns voices into electronic signals which are then converted into sound by your telephone. VoIP on the other hand, treats voice like any other piece of information being sent over the Internet—by digitising it into packets of data.” Since 2004 the global uptake of VoIP technology has shown strong growth primarily as a result of:
a) a number of companies entering the market; and
b) a growing number of Internet users switching to increasingly cheaper broadband technology solutions.
The attractiveness of VoIP originates from its lower cost compared to using standard fixed line telephones, particularly for peak time or international calls. Depending on the bundle of services provided, customers can also access a range of additional VoIP services such as voice mail or extra phone lines, for example, at a low price or no cost. Taking advantage of VoIP’s cost effectiveness, however, (unlike using a traditional telephone) requires access to a PC, as well as a broadband connection with sufficient download capacity for VoIP and, if chosen by a user, an analogue telephone adaptor so that a standard phone can be used for VoIP.
In terms of absolute subscriber numbers, in the December Quarter 2005 Japan (8 230 000 users), the US (4 301 000) and France (2 820 000) recorded the highest numbers of VoIP users, although Norway (187 000), Italy (1 184 000) and Sweden (140 000) recorded a higher proportion of VoIP users as a percentage of total population than the US (see chart below). In the same period Australia had 97 000 VoIP users, equal to nearly half of one per cent of the total population. Even though these initial low percentages of use emphasise VoIP’s status as an emerging technology just as the Internet was in the early 1990s, VoIP is developing into a commercial reality with sufficient potential for growth in its subscriber base to attract the interest of leading telephony providers worldwide.
Notwithstanding that “the number of subscribers to retail VOIP services rose by 83 per cent during 2005, from 10.3 million at the beginning of 2005 to over 18.7 million subscribers worldwide by the end of the year” , turning VoIP into a mass-market service may rest on effectively addressing a number of key quality and pricing issues in the long term. These include improving the quality of VoIP calls, making VoIP attractive also in markets where conventional telephony costs are low, and maintaining VoIP cost competitiveness in view of future PSTN price reductions aimed at countering the technology’s advantages. Equally important will be the role played by regulators in dealing with this emerging technology in a number of sizeable telecommunications markets that have been traditionally dominated by incumbent providers.
Australian businesses using VoIP
In its Broadband Barometer 2006 report, Pacific Internet presented the results of a survey of 514 Australian small and medium businesses’ (SMBs) adoption of Internet technologies including VoIP. The survey of businesses employing between five and 199 employees was conducted in August and September 2006. The report states that “the expected VoIP avalanche is gathering momentum. VoIP is already used by 19 per cent of SMBs [in scope] (a large increase compared to one per cent in 2005). Based on conservative calculations, the report estimates around $600m-worth of annual voice revenue was lost to VoIP from traditional telcos in the last year.”
E- readiness Rankings
The e-readiness rankings have been published annually by the UK based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) since 2000. According to the EIU, “the ranking evaluates the technological, economic, political and social assets of 68 countries—including this year’s newest additions, Bermuda, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates—and their cumulative impact on their respective information economies. E-readiness is the state of play of a country’s information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and the ability of its consumers, businesses and governments to use ICT to their benefits.”
The final rankings are “a weighted collection of nearly 100 quantitative and qualitative criteria, organised into six distinct categories measuring the various components of a country’s social, political, economic and of course technological development.”
Australia’s e-readiness ranking improved from 10th in 2005 to 8th in 2006. The higher ranking was in part attributable to Australia’s strong performance in broadband penetration over the last two years.
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