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Nuggets from ACMA’s regular data dump

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A meme from last year that the "Web is dead" doesn't seem to have stopped Australian 'net users, for whom that and e-mail remain the inescapable daily activity, according to a research paper published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Its latest analysis of Internet usage also restates the complementary relationship between fixed and mobile connections.

Its study, The internet service market in Australia, notes last year’s continuing growth in fixed services, in spite of the greater maturity of the fixed market and in the face of fast mobile broadband growth.

Interestingly, the research also suggests that income levels are becoming less relevant to whether or not a household has broadband access. While there is a strong correlation between non-use and both age (53 percent of non-users are aged over 55) and income (62 percent had annual incomes below AU$25,000), 31 percent of those who lacked a home Internet connection report that they get online by other means – employers’ or friends’ connections, or public services such as in libraries.

Half of those without a home connection said it’s not relevant to their lifestyle, compared to 42 percent who can’t afford it.

However, with the total Internet user base in this country passing 15 million, it's no surprise that ACMA tags the ISP sector as the fastest-growing segment in telecommunications.

The research also reveals interesting insights into the kinds of services that matter to Australians – and it’s not all good news for service providers. We love the kinds of things the Internet lets us do, but when it comes to the services the industry loves, such as Internet TV offerings, the enthusiasm hasn’t caught on yet.

We still love the Web and e-mail – 79 percent of users conduct “research and information activities” daily, and the same proportion access e-mail, VoIP or instant messaging every day, and shopping is already on the daily activities list for 39 percent of users.

However, these activities don’t offer much in the way of income opportunities for ISPs, compared to services like Internet TV services. Here, the market can be seen either as flat (if you’re a pessimist) or immature (for optimists).

The only “advanced TV” activities people care about are pause-and-rewind of live programs (44 percent use it now or would like to have it), and streaming TV or online content around the home (36 percent do it or want to). On-demand movies and sport? At “disinterested” levels of 70 percent and 61 percent respectively, our response comes close to hostility. Internet-connected TVs, shopping from the TV, and TV-based video calls show similar scores.

If this isn’t just a reflection of a population that’s unfamiliar with the glories of the services available to them, then service providers will need more than just content tie-ups to turn their bit pipes into profitable content services: they’ll also need a savvy touch to turn their offerings into something that attracts a premium.

Not that Australians don’t like streaming: in fact, we love it. More than two million users downloaded video, TV and movies in 2010 (fewer than the “you’re all pirates” brigade would have us believe), and more than 2.7 million like their video or TV streamed (more than double the number in 2009), and audio and video podcasts were staples for nearly three million users. ®

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