Australians using just 15 percent of broadband quota


Australians use only 15 percent of their monthly broadband quota, on average, according to a report by Sydney-based telecommunications analyst firm Market Clarity released this week.

The firm conducted its study — Broadband Download Behaviour in Australia — The Disconnect Between Allowance and Usage (available in full from its website), over a period of four years, from 2006 to 2010. Its results show Australian users are far from exceeding their average broadband quotas of 45GB, with residential usage being about 7GB per month.

Market Clarity has been comparing the major ISPs’ plans on offer each year, focusing its research on residential fixed broadband plans, and excluding from its analysis 3G mobile services. The study concludes a decade of broadband growth, which culminated in the recent terabyte download quota war between ISPs, has resulted in relatively stable price points, but with increasing quota value.

Last August iiNet launched what it claimed was Australia’s first terabyte-per-month plan. Most other major ISPs have since rushed to launch similar plans. However, skepticism has arisen about the practical utility of the offerings — whether it’s possible for users to reach their limit each month.

“Even before the ‘terabyte wars’ began, Australian broadband users were already the lucky beneficiaries of growing download allowances,” said Market Clarity chief executive Shara Evans (pictured) this week. “That trend, most apparent since around 2008, led us to wonder whether there might not be a gap between the allowances subscribers receive when buying broadband plans, and their consumption of broadband data,” she said.

Evans’ surmise turned to be right. Her company’s study shows that while consumers tend to migrate to plans with more generous allowances, their download behavior is lagging behind the broadband growth.

This happens – Market Clarity’s explains – as it is more and more common for ISPs to upgrade existing plans to higher download limits when they launch new retail plans. The availability of an increasing number of international fibre-optic cables reaching Australia has also allow ISPs to pay less for data — while passing on the extra allowances to users.

“Since 2006, the average residential fixed broadband consumption has more than doubled, from 2.4GB per user per month to around 7GB per user per month,” Evans said. “However, download allowances by June 2010 — before terabyte plans emerged — were already averaging 45GB per residential subscriber.”

The analyst firm’s study shows that in 2006, 71 percent of consumers were on a plan offering less than 1GB per month of quota. In 2010 that entry-level has not only disappeared, but been replaced by a 1 to 5GB per month range which gathers 46.8 percent of consumers. The other consumers spread among higher levels. At times, consumers are automatically allocated from a low entry-level to a higher one, without changing fees; thus benefiting from better value for money.

Evans said the discrepancy between downloads and allowances was in the customer’s interest, noting it allowed for less risk of exceeding cap plans and for more “headroom”.

From a policy point of view, a study that demonstrates Australians are using only little of their already-existing broadband plans, could pose questions about the need to rollout the National Broadband Network.

However, the study itself warns readers that it does not have enough scope to serve as an input as to whether or not it’s “necessary” to construct the NBN.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday claimed there was no evidence that there was any benefit to end users from getting access to broadband speeds higher than currently available under existing ADSL2+ technology. However, Market Clarity’s research showed users still do value speed when choosing a broadband plan.

The company’s study says that if 50 percent of consumers are still on lower speed plans, it is due to a combination of elements — including price, equipment and inertia. ADSL2+ services are generally priced in accordance with data allowance rather than speed, and the requirement to replace an older ADSL1 modem can be discouraging.

Furthermore, MC’s market research demonstrates customers are reluctant to alter their broadband plan, unless a “free” upgrade is on offer.

Image credit: Rotorhead, royalty free


    • I’d be more interested in a display of how many people are using up the first 75% of all combined quotas…there will be a large number of people barely using their quota…

      There will be a small number of people blowing their quota to the sheizen heizen…and using a comparatively high percentage of the total national consumed bandwidth…

      What these people are using now will be what more and more people will need down the track…

      • I agree. From the getout, our family has used every scrap of our quota (which is currently 50GB/month @ ADSL1). There are bound to be a lot of people just entering the Net who use very little as yet. I often run into people who say, “I just use it for email”, and very occasional email at that.

        This will change. Our family has been making up emergency/priority lists (for evacuation), and my daughter’s said:


  1. What the report points out, clearly debunks Turnbull’s continued insistance that high-speed isn’t demanded.

    Speed is increasingly becoming a key demand metric. Whilst price has always been a governing factor, the need to glue ever increasing numbers of devices to an internet connection, will only drive further demand.

    That demand isn’t likely to diminish.

  2. Not a single mention of cable in the entire study. I wonder if they even know cable exists?

    Especially in 2010, the uptake of more cable services for residential internet was huge.

  3. It’s all over-hyped to justify higher pricing for bigger plans no one needs. My usage rarely exceeds 7GB a month but I am on a 21GB plan coz there is nothing smaller that would fit.

  4. “and the requirement to replace an older ADSL1 modem can be discouraging.”

    Surprising. There’s seriously a statistically significant amount of ADSL1 only modems owned by Australians that still function?

  5. If that’s true about the 15% then it must be the same majority whonhog the bandwidth and screw it up for everyone else.
    The mentality that I paid for it so I am entitled the whole internet should be stopped.
    Most people do not realise that there net is affected by these people.
    It’s about time they penalized these people so the rest of is have a fair go .

  6. I easily use 250 gb + a month
    cause i watch ALL my tv on the internet, when anew game comes out i buy it via D2D/Steam and have to download it to save money.
    currently on unlimited with TPG because i need it

    also ADSL is quite slow compared to say cable, and watching tv online (streaming) will be annoying when every 6 or so mins it has to catch up so there is no point. if you give them all say 10 mbps which their consumption go up

  7. The fact that the majority of users never consume their data allowance does not obviate the NBN, but endorses its forecasts of modest growth in data demand over time.

    When Internode launched its “Easy” plans a few years back, they said that putting a 50GB allowance on entry level plans meant that most people would never have to think about download limits. Easy.

    Your home loudspeakers will last longer if they are played well within their power specification than if they are over-driven to clipping all the time.

    The average 7GB monthly data consumption certainly undermines the claims that NBN backhaul is under-provisioned to cope with all those maxed-out high speed connections. Today, fully half of all Australia’s ADSL connections can’t even deliver 2 Mbps (cf. ABS, 20 September 2010). Little wonder most people can’t max out the connection, despite paying for 24 Mbps. Yet even when people see real bandwidth of 12 Mbps instead of today’s 2 Mbps, we should still expect the average consumption in 3-5 years rise to maybe 20 GB, because it will change little for many very light internet users, and many new households will only use it for voice calls. But those who want more data can pay for it and receive it, unlike today when they pay for it and cannot receive it.

    Here’s what I think will happen. After the NBN comes past their home, as their existing contracts expire, or when invited by their ISP to migrate their contract to fibre, the vast majority of households will take up a $50-odd entry-level 12 Mbps NBN-backed plan with a modest data allowance of perhaps 50GB or less. At a stroke this $50 replaces their current line rental, call plan and entire local and STD phone bill, as well as their dialup or ADSL if they had any, so it will be a monthly saving already, AND will include unlimited national phone calls, AND will always run at the purchased speed without congestion.

    At the other end of the scale, many high-end users will realise that they can now do offsite backups of their home or home office computer hard drives, and these will constitute a sizeable chunk of the upstream bandwidth in the first few years. Think $80 for a 50/20 connection including 200GB of data for these users. Just imagine 20 Mbps UPSTREAM speed! This is where the NBN will really shine.

    By about 2016 there will be a massive takeup of services that require more bandwidth, such as Foxtel by Fibre, Video EzyStream, who knows what else the marketing guys will come up with? This will lead to redirection of a chunk of many households’ monthly leisure spend to broadband-delivered television content. The effect will be to upsize many more NBN-resold connections to a higher speed, producing a windfall in wholesale revenue to NBNCo, which is therefore likely to see it turn a profit earlier than forecast in its conservative business plan.

    Mr Turnbull is plainly in politics for himself alone, not for his party. His foolish public attitude against the NBN cost the coalition government the last election, and risks doing so again in 2013. Tony Abbott needs better advisors.

    • I agree with most of your points, but do remember that Tony Abbott specifically instructed Turnbull to “destroy the NBN”. It wasn’t Turnbull’s idea. I wish he had enough guts to tell Abbott where to stuff it.

  8. I have a 30+30 allowance and usually get nowhere near using it.

    BUT I do two things that push limits SOMETIMES.

    I download snapshots of an OS to which I have contributed. At the approach of a code-freeze as a new version approaches, I’m often downloading loads of code and the matching applications that must work in sync. This doesn’t put me over the limit but has gone close.

    Secondly I do remote upgrades of critical infrastructure. I want that to happen in near zero time. The A in ADSL sucks elephant dung through fine straws for that task.

    So my statistics tell nothing about my needs and usage patterns in a sample like the subject of this news item

    Turnbull has probably never done any on-line OS updates. Nor has Conroy. Both are seemingly ignorant of the real needs of people like me. Conroy just got lucky and was advised that a significant buch of users needed better speeds and the need will be applicable to a wider audience as time goes by.

    What nobody seems to get is that some people .like me NEED fast uploads but are not in the financial position of big business to pay exorbitant rates to get symmetry.

    Fibre does not need the assymetry that was forced on us by ADSL. Why do we stick to that crippled state when we have a carriage service that does not need it?

  9. FKN BS i use 110% of my data every month i always go over and forced to buy extra data FKNNNN BS

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