Communications report 2010–11 series Report 2—Converging
communications channels: Preferences and behaviours of Australian communications users
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Executive summary 4 Introduction 6 Decline in dominance of the fixed-line telephone 7 How are Australians combining technologies? 9 The expansion of internet-based communications 10 Mobile handset technology—take-up and use 13 Non-voice services used via mobiles 14 The shift to smartphones 15 Mobile applications 16 The mobile phone-only population in Australia 17 Are mobile phone-only users likely to return to fixed-line telephones? 17 Mobile phone-only consumers—payphone usage 18 Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) 19 VoIP access devices 19 Who are Australia’s VoIP users? 19 Type of calls made via VoIP 20 Australians online—using the internet to communicate 21 Email 21 Social media 21 Social networking sites 22 Cloud computing 23
Endnotes 25 Appendix—Methodology 26
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The communications sector in Australia is dynamic, characterised by continual technological and service innovation which is blurring previous clear-cut distinctions between voice-, data- and video-based communications. Within this environment, a number of broad trends dominated the household consumer communications market in Australia during 2010–11.
Fixed-line services continuing downward trend
During this period, the proportion of adult consumers (people aged 18 years and over) without a fixed-line telephone service in the home increased by three percentage points to reach 19 per cent of the total adult population. This was most prevalent for people aged 18–24 years (with 37 per cent not having a home fixed-line telephone service at June 2011).
Mobile phone penetration higher than for fixed-line telephone
Even with the growth in VoIP over fixed-line services, the penetration of fixed-line telephone services among household consumers (81 per cent) was below that of mobile phones at June 2011 (87 per cent). Mobile phone penetration levels among household consumers first exceeded that of fixed-line telephone services during the previous 2009–10 reporting period.
Emergence of smartphones
Higher mobile phone penetration levels reflect increased adoption of 3G handsets and the entry of smartphones (e.g. iPhones and Blackberries) into the Australian market. At April 2011, 89 per cent of adult consumers in fixed-line telephone households used a mobile phone. Smartphones users accounted for 37 per cent of mobile phone users overall, with half of those who have a mobile phone and no fixed-line telephone service in their home having a smartphone.
The majority of consumers combine multiple communications technologies Rather than replacing one communications form for another, the majority of Australians continued to ‘accrue’ communications technologies to provide maximum
communications flexibility, employing each technology according to its ability to serve their perceived communications needs.
Most (57 per cent) adult consumers in fixed-line telephone households used three communications technologies–fixed-line telephone, a mobile phone and the internet–
while a further 27 per cent also used VoIP.
The internet facilitating development of alternative communications channels Steady growth of internet use in the home and the rapid penetration of internet-capable mobile phones are driving the development of online communications channels such as VoIP, social networking and instant messaging.
The proportion of adult consumers using the internet at home increased by two percentage points during 2010–11 to reach 79 per cent of the total population aged 18 years and over. Approximately 60 per cent of adult internet users in Australia were estimated to have undertaken social networking activities online in the six months to April 2011, while 34 per cent of adults in fixed-line telephone households used a VoIP service, a rise of two percentage points since April 2010.
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Smartphones are also playing a major role in facilitating the use of converged communications, with these users more likely to use online communications services such as email, social networking and VoIP via their handset than other mobile phone internet users. At April 2011, of adult smartphone users:
> 74 per cent used email and 74 per cent used social networking via their smartphone, compared to 46 per cent and 49 per cent for other mobile phone users
> 72 per cent downloaded applications via their smartphone, compared to 42 per cent of other mobile users
> 13 per cent made VoIP calls via their handset compared to eight per cent of other mobile phone users.
Web-hosted email accounts (WHEAs) were the dominant cloud computing service used by Australians. In the six months to April 2011, 68 per cent of Australian adults online used email services such as Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo!Mail.
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This report is the second in a series of three research reports to be published as part
Communications report 2010–11 series. Other reports in this series of the ACMA’s
> Report 1—E-commerce marketplace in Australia: Online shopping, released 16
> Report 3—The emerging mobile telecommunications service market in Australia. This suite of reports is designed to complement, but is not a part of, the ACMA Communications report 2010–11, which is produced to fulfil reporting obligations under section 105 of the Telecommunications Act 1997.
The three reports in the Communications report series seek to better inform ACMA stakeholders about convergence and the digital economy, and their impacts on communications and media services and consumer behaviour. As an evidence-based regulator, the ACMA has an interest in monitoring and understanding the developing digital economy and the role digital communications and media are playing in its development.
This report provides an update on key trends relating to changing household consumer communications preferences, including:
> the ongoing shift from dependence on single service, typically fixed-line telephony > the development of mobile phones as convergent devices providing internet access > the integration of the internet into everyday consumer communications choices > how consumers are combining different communications technologies and services. This report also includes new material on:
> Australia’s ‘mobile phone-only’ population and its propensity to use other
> the take-up of cloud computing services by Australian household consumers.
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Decline in dominance of the fixed-line telephone
Australians are accessing a wide range of communications services, increasingly moving beyond traditional fixed and mobile voice platforms to online voice and data communications channels.
Rather than replacing legacy communications technology (such as the fixed-line telephone) with newer platforms, the majority of Australian household consumers typically maintain a range of complementary communications options to provide a level of flexibility better suited to their perceived communications needs. However, a significant proportion of the Australian adult population (19 per cent) is now without a fixed-line home telephone.
While fixed-line telephony remains popular among older Australians, younger consumers are most commonly choosing to make calls using their mobile or data connection, or are using non-voice communications tools such as social networking and text. While older consumers are gradually becoming more tech-savvy, young adults are leading the shift to communications technologies that do not include a fixed-line home telephone.
During 2010–11, the proportion of Australia’s adult population with a fixed-line home
telephone declined by three percentage points, to be 81 per cent of adult consumers at June 2011 (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Take-up and use of select communications services
Fixed-line telephone Mobile phone Home internet
89 87 87 90 85
81 85 84 80 83
79 77 75 70 71
% of people aged 18 years and over
Jun-08 Jun-09 Jun-10 Jun-11
Note: Fixed-line telephone services include VoIP where the service is accessed via a standard handset and excludes services accessed
via a computer. Home internet includes all service types except mobile handset internet. Base population also includes consumers in
households without a fixed-line telephone and/or no mobile phone.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.
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The impact of the continued shift from fixed voice to wireless communications is reflected in the financial bottom line of fixed-line service providers. For example, in the year to June 2011, the number of locals calls made by Telstra customers fell by 13.6 1per cent, while national long-distance calls dropped by 8.6 per cent. This has
translated to a fall in traditional Public Switched Telecommunications Network (PSTN) earnings of nearly eight per cent ($462 million) contributing to the company’s overall 2EBITDA earnings decline of 6.4 per cent for 2010–11.
The decline in fixed-line telephone connections varies by age across the Australian population (Figure 2). Among older Australians—people 65 years and over—fixed-line
telephony remains very high (94 per cent), while 37 per cent of people aged 18–24
years and 36 per cent of people aged 25–34 years were estimated to be without a
fixed-line telephone in their home at June 2011.
Figure 2 Consumers with a fixed-line telephone connected in the home, by age
Jun-09 Jun-10 Jun-11
100 95 94 94 94 93 92 91 90 90 88 87 86 84 83 81 76 80 74 70
64 64 63
% of people in each age group
Total 18–24 25–34 35–44 45–54 55–64 65+
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.
A closer look at consumers aged between 18 and 24 years reveals that several additional factors may be influencing their communications choices (Figure 3). The highest level of fixed-line retention among those aged 18–24 was for those people
living in the parental home (85 per cent), presumably a reflection of their parents’
communications choices and funding.
Once members of this group moved out of the parental home and were more likely to make their own financial and communications decisions, this figure declined dramatically. Many favoured alternative communications technologies, most commonly going ‘mobile phone-only’ and/or VoIP via their computer.
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Figure 3 Fixed-line telephone access of those aged 18–24, by employment status and household type
Studying—not employed 67
Live alone 16
Partner and no children 42
With parents 85
Shared household 32
0 20 40 60 80 100
% of people aged 18–24 years
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2011.
Across the Australian population, other factors influencing the retention of fixed-line telephony include unit call costs (the cost of untimed local calls and calls to mobiles) and the desire for a high-speed internet connection. Previous ACMA research found that the most common reason for consumers considering removing their fixed-line 3telephone connection was cost, especially fixed-line rental costs.
Even within the majority of Australian households where fixed-line telephones are still present, there is a growing tendency towards less dependency on a single voice service in preference for combining multiple communications such as mobile phones, fixed-line telephone and the internet.
How are Australians combining technologies?
Fifty-seven per cent of Australian adults with a fixed-line telephone used three communications technologies (Figure 4), typically centred on a core of fixed-line and mobile telephony, together with an internet connection. Twenty-seven per cent used four technologies, adding VoIP to their suite of communications. Twelve per cent of household consumers limited their communications choice to a fixed-line telephone or a fixed-line telephone and mobile phone. These consumers are mostly older Australians—62 per cent of people in this category are aged 65 years or older.
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Figure 4 Communications technology combinations in fixed-line telephone households, in the six
month to April 2011
Fixed-line telephone Fixed-line telephone only + internet 5% 4%
+ mobile phone
Fixed-line telephone Fixed-line telephone + mobile phone + mobile phone + internet + internet + VoIP 57% 27%
Note: Relates to people aged 18 years and over.
Source: ACMA-commissioned consumer survey, April 2011.
While perceived personal communications needs play an important role in influencing communications choices, industry’s bundled service offerings available from carriage
service providers (CSPs) are an additional driver of this multiple technology use. Bundling encourages consumers to subscribe to multiple services through the same provider, usually in return for price reduction on one or all of the services. At June 2011, 43 per cent of adult household consumers (3.6 million households) were estimated to have two or more telecommunications services provided via a bundling 4arrangement with their telecommunications service provider. Ninety-three per cent of
these consumers included a fixed-line telephone line as part of their bundling arrangement.
Discounts, value for money and convenience of dealing with a single service provider are the main drivers for consumers when considering bundling telecommunications services. Fifty-three per cent of households with two or more telecommunications services bundled at June 2011 identified financial discounts or free services (such as free local calls) as an important benefit from service bundling, while 48 per cent 5identified convenience of dealing with a single service provider for billing purposes.
The expansion of internet-based communications
With the development of broadband technologies, the number of communications options available to Australians has soared in recent years, shifting from the relatively simple mobile and fixed-line telephony dichotomy to an entire suite of voice and non-voice options centred on the internet. This includes social networking, instant messaging and internet-based voice calls. Figure 5 indicates that, while fixed-line calls, email, mobile calls and texting remain the most popular ways for Australians to keep in touch, a large section of the population now uses other internet-based communications, such as social networking and VoIP.
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