Australia: Digital content changes mobile habits
December 1, 2016
Australians’ increasing appetite for digital content is driving profound changes in mobile device use, services, infrastructure and content delivery, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Communications report 2015–16, revealing current trends in consumer behaviour and industry responses.
“The continuing increase in digital data traffic has been the main cause of change in the communications sector over the past year,” said acting ACMA Chairman Richard Bean. “Australians downloaded 2.2 million terabytes of data in the quarter to June 2016 alone—a 114 per cent increase on two years ago.”
The communications industry’s ongoing infrastructure investment has accelerated in response to the growth of data download volumes.
“The continuation of the NBN rollout, expansion of 4G networks, commitments to the rollout of 5G services, and increased planning for submarine cable infrastructure will all contribute to the capacity of communications networks to meet demand,” advised Bean.
Online content viewing is now firmly established in Australia, with 63 per cent of Australians watching online content (up from 53 per cent). Catch-up and subscription video options, particularly video content downloads, have driven data usage—rather than growth in the number of device plans.
The report also shows how the data-driven shift is reflected in the changing profile of Australians’ use of communications services. Fixed-line telephone subscriptions continue to decline (down four per cent), while mobile phone and internet subscriptions continue to increase (up 2.6 per and 4.5 per cent respectively).
Over-the-top communication services such as subscription video on demand (SVoD), free-to-air (FTA) live streaming and catch-up services continue to attract increasing numbers of subscribers (2.7 million paid or free trial subscriptions in the past two years).
Among the key findings:
Digital data downloading and traffic is driving profound changes across all the key enabling elements of the communications sector—infrastructure, devices, services and content:
- the volume of data downloaded continues to increase, with a 52 per cent rise in total volume from 1.5 million to 2.2 million terabytes between the June 2015 and June 2016 quarters
- data download volumes have more than doubled in the last two years, with a 114 per cent increase in total volume: from 1 million to 2.2 million terabytes between the June 2014 and June 2016 quarters
- the majority of data downloaded is done over fixed-line broadband, accounting for 92 per cent of total volume of data downloaded as at June 2016
- the volume of data downloaded over mobile handsets increased by 69 per cent between the June 2015 and June 2016 quarters.
The shift to mobile-phone only households continues:
- 31 per cent, or approximately 5.78 million Australians, have a mobile phone and no fixed-line telephone at home.
In 2015–16, continued investment in infrastructure was evident from the roll-out of the NBN to the expansion of 4G mobile networks and plans to increase submarine cable capacity to connect Australia with the rest of the world:
- the number of premises activated on the NBN network increased by 126 per cent to over one million
- 4G mobile networks expanded to cover up to 98 per cent of the population
- increased interest in the submarine cable infrastructure connecting Australia to the rest of the world.
Data traffic appears to be driven more by increasing intensity of usage, particularly video content downloading, rather than significant growth in device subscriptions:
- in the six months to May 2016, 91 per cent of adult Australians had accessed the internet
- of those adult Australians who went online, 68 per cent accessed the internet several times a day
- in the six months to June 2016, 63 per cent of adult Australians watched online video content
- of those online, 72 per cent of watched video content and 57 per cent listened to audio content online.
The data-driven shift had a notable impact on the services market through the changing profile of service subscriptions and increased demand for subscription video on demand services:
- catch-up television and SVOD watching is popular among 44 and 32 per cent of Australians respectively
- SVOD and streaming service offerings continued to expand but other online video on demand services ceased in 2015–16
- SVOD services are now an established part of the Australian media landscape, recording around 2.7 million paid, free or trial subscriptions as at June 2016.
Content delivery and the changing viewing behaviours by Australians are driving significant developments not only in the online content and broadcasting sectors, but more broadly across the communications industry:
- there has been a gradual decline in FTA television viewing over the last six years, with 84 per cent of Australian adults in the five major cities watching at least five minutes of FTA television in an average week in 2015–16, compared to 89 per cent in 2010–11. Regional markets have seen a decline in audience viewing from 87 per cent to 81 per cent
- despite the decline in time spent with broadcast content, watching FTA television live still represents the largest share (59 per cent) of the weekly average time spent watching television or video content (excluding pre-recorded DVDs) among Australian adults
- watching professionally produced online content accounted for 15 per cent of time spent, and watching Foxtel live (at the time of broadcast) accounted for 14 per cent
- Netflix is more popular than YouTube as an online source for professional video content.
- almost 60 per cent of consumers aged 65 and over had watched ABC’s iView in the last seven days, while only 19 per cent watched 9Now. Plus7 was the most watched service for younger Australians aged 18 to 34.