Fixed line data dominates Australia’s download tally despite mobile internet surge

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Suggestions that Australia’s fixed line broadband data dominance is set to play second fiddle to mobile broadband services might need a reality check, with wireless broadband accounting for just three percent of the total data downloaded in the December quarter.

The latest figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) show that the vast majority – 91 percent – of all internet downloads were served by fixed line broadband services in the three months ending December 2018. According to the ACCC, Australians downloaded approximately 5.1 million terabytes in the quarter.

This is despite reports that 5G broadband offerings by some of Australia’s leading mobile telcos have the potential to disrupt the ongoing viability of fixed line broadband services provided by the country’s somewhat beleaguered National Broadband Network (NBN).

According to the ACCC’s Internet Activity Report – December 2018 [PDF], released on 14 May, the total volume of data downloaded in the three months ending December was 5.1 million terabytes, with fibre internet connections accounting for the greatest majority proportion of total; fixed line/wired connections, followed by DSL.

According to the report, there was a substantially smaller amount of data downloaded via mobile handsets and wireless broadband over the same period, with the wireless technologies representing six percent and three percent of the overall data download volume in its entirety during the period.

By comparison, around six percent of the broadband data downloaded in Australia during the period was done so via mobile handsets, and approximately three percent via wireless broadband.

However, the latest figures also show that the most common way consumers accessed the internet during the period was through mobile handsets, with 24.3 million of the estimated 39.9 million broadband services in operation during the quarter being attributed to mobile handsets.

“This report provides a clear indication that while consumers are most often using their phones to access the internet, when downloading significant content they currently favour fixed line connections,” ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said.

At the same time, the report suggested that the imminent arrival of 5G products and services will likely support greater increases in the volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets and wireless broadband access technologies.

All in all, the ACCC estimates that the total number of retail broadband services in operation (SIOs) reached 39.9 million as of the end of last year, with 24.3 million of these services made up of mobile handsets, 8.4 million wireless broadband and 7.2 million fixed-line or wired broadband.

To put this into context, Australia’s population was 25,370, 917 at the time of writing, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Australians’ international roaming bill put at $1.4B

Australian mobile phone users have spent somewhere in the vicinity of $1.4 billion on international roaming fees, according to new estimates by market research agency YouGov Galaxy.

The study, commissioned by Vodafone Australia as a vehicle to tout the telco’s $5-per-day international roaming product, suggests that up to 5 million Australians have been subjected to international roaming fees.

Of these 5 million people — who represent about 41 percent of smartphone owners in Australia — the average international roaming fee per person comes to $290, the research suggests, equating to about $1.45 billion in total. It should be noted that this figure is not restricted to a particular period of time.

The study also suggests that around 250,000 Australians claim to have paid more than $1,000 in international roaming fees.

Interestingly, the research found that Australian Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — were far less likely to have been charged international roaming fees than younger Australians, with just 29 percent having paid roaming fees. This is compared to 45 percent and 51 percent for Millenials and Gen X, respectively.

Regardless of the billion-dollar estimated total amount paid for international roaming by Australians, Vodafone Australia’s chief commercial officer Ben McIntosh claims that just 3 percent of smartphone users will continue to use their phone as normal while travelling.

While this percentage may seem small, international roaming has been under some scrutiny recently, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) wrapping up a review of the International Mobile Roaming (IMR) Standard in Australia in October last year.

According to the review’s report, released in October 2018, there were some key areas found that could be improved upon “to make regulation more flexible in light of changes to mobile phone use overseas”.

“TIO [Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman] data indicates that complaints to it about IMR services has risen again in recent years. While complaint numbers remain low, the amounts in dispute per complaint can be high,” the report said.

The Vodafone-commissioned YouGov Galaxy study comes just a few months after industry analysis firm Juniper Research found that operator revenues from international mobile roaming are expected to remain flat over the next four years, representing about 6 percent of total operator-billed revenues and $51 billion in value.

Regulation of wholesale mobile voice services should continue: ACCC

Australia’s domestic Mobile Terminating Access Service (MTAS) for voice services should be regulated for a further five years, the ACCC has proposed in a draft report released for consultation today.

The ACCC is also proposing that regulation of the MTAS for SMS services not continue, due to increased competition from messaging services like iMessage and WhatsApp.

The MTAS is a wholesale service that allows consumers on different mobile networks to make calls or send SMS to each other. The ACCC has regulated the MTAS since 2014 to ensure calls can be made, and SMS can be sent, between consumers on all mobile phone networks.

In August 2018, the ACCC launched a public inquiry examining whether the current regulation, or declaration, of voice and SMS MTAS should be revoked, extended or varied after it expires on 30 June, 2019.

The ACCC now proposes to continue the declaration of voice services, while removing regulation of the SMS termination service.

“Many consumers with smartphones are now using over-the-top messaging services such as iMessage and WhatsApp as alternatives to SMS. Importantly, we have also found that the majority of mobile plans now on offer in the market offer unlimited SMS,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Our decision to regulate SMS appears to have had the desired effect. We are therefore proposing to remove regulation of MTAS for SMS services as we do not think continued regulation is necessary to promote competition.”

“However, over-the-top voice services are not yet substitutes for mobile voice calls as they do not offer the same quality or access to services such as Triple Zero,” Mr Sims said. “We are therefore proposing to continue declaration of MTAS for voice services.”

Interested stakeholders are invited to provide a submission to the draft report by 31 May 2019. More information on the MTAS and the ACCC’s draft report is available at Mobile terminating access service declaration review 2018 – 2019.

Which major Aussie city suffers from the slowest mobile download speeds?

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Of Australia’s five largest cities, Sydney experienced the slowest average mobile download speeds across the country’s three big wireless network providers, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, during the three months ending 31 March, new research shows.

In Sydney, the average mobile download speed experience across all three of the major mobile operators during the three-month period was 40.3 megabits per second (Mbps), based on figures in new analysis by mobile analytics firm Opensignal.

The 40.3 Mbps download scorecard for Sydney was drawn from an average mobile download rate of 48.6 Mbps for Telstra, 39.1 Mbps for Optus and 33.3 Mbps from Vodafone, as outlined in Opensignal’s latest Australia Mobile Network Experience Report, which took in over 489 million measurements from some 110,000 devices during the period.

For Melbourne, the average download speed across the three mobile network providers came to 41.2 Mbps, with Telstra in the lead at an average of 48.8 Mbps during the period, followed by Vodafone with 38.5 Mbps and Optus, which claimed an average of 36.3 Mbps.

Meanwhile, Perth saw an average download speed experience of 50.6 Mbps from Telstra, 38.6 Mbps from Optus and 35.8 Mbps from Vodafone, equating to an average download speed of 41.7 Mbps across all providers during the period.

According to the research, Telstra scored an average download speed experience of 55.7 Mbps in Brisbane, with Optus and Vodafone trailing with 38.9 Mbps and 34.9 Mbps, respectively — equating to an average of 43.2 Mbps across all three providers.

Adelaide enjoyed the fastest speed overall, compared to the other major cities, seeing an average download speed during the period of 47.6 Mbps across all three providers, with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone claiming 63.2 Mbps, 43 Mbps and 36.7 Mbps, respectively.

Opensignal’s research also revealed that, across the country, Telstra claimed an average download speed experience of 41.1 Mbps, putting it in top place in terms of download speed, followed by Optus and Vodafone, both of which claimed average download speeds of over 30 Mbps — 36.4 Mbps and 32.8 Mbps, respectively.

Additionally, the report revealed that, on a national scale, Optus claims the highest 4G availability rating, with an availability score of 91.9 percent, followed by Vodafone with a score of 90.3 percent and Telstra with a score of 89.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Optus and Vodafone drew in terms of latency, with Optus claiming an average latency experience of 34.6 milliseconds (ms), compared to Vodafone’s 34.4 ms. For its part, Telstra’s average latency experience over the period was 41.8 ms, according to the report.

Android adware installed 30M times before being pulled from Google Play Store

Android apps laden with adware were installed more than 30 million times before being removed from the Google Play Store, according to cyber security software provider Avast.

The company said in a blog published on 23 April that it discovered 50 adware apps on the Google Play Store, with installations of the apps in question ranging from 5,000 to 5 million.

According to Avast, the adware it found can be a nuisance for those who inadvertently installed it on their phones, as it results in persistent displays of full-screen ads. It also occasionally tries to convince users to install additional apps, the cyber security company said.

The Avast research uncovered two versions of the adware, which the company said tapped into third party Android libraries in a bid to bypass background service restrictions in newer versions of the mobile operating system. This let the adware display more and more ads to users — something that is against Google Play Store rules.

Of the two versions of the adware that was discovered, ‘version A’ was installed 3.6 million times, largely contained in game, fitness and photo editing apps, according to Avast. The ‘version B’ adware, meanwhile, was installed nearly 28 million times, and was included in fitness and music apps.

An example of one of the apps containing the adware (Source: Avast)

Avast claims the that the samples it found have since been removed from the Google Play Store, but not before tha adware was installed at least 30 million times by unwitting smartphone users around the world.

As noted by ZDNet, the disclosure of the adware discovery by Avast comes just days after fellow cyber security provider Checkpoint revealed its researchers had uncovered a series of apps found on the Google Play Store that were conducting fraudulent activities against ad agencies.

“In total, the malware was downloaded over 90 million times across 6 applications. Google was notified and removed the infected applications from Google Play,” Checkpoint said in a blog posted on 19 April.

According to Checkpoint, the so-called ‘PreAMo’ malware found in from leads fed to the researchers imitates the user by clicking on banners retrieved from three ad agencies: Presage, Admob and Mopub.

AMTA CALLS ON AUSTRALIAN GOV’T TO SUPPORT 5G INFRASTRUCTURE ROLLOUT

5G mobile industry to deliver A$65 billion boost to Australian economy by 2023

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association has called on the federal government to underpin the deployment of 5G, with a specific focus on the infrastructure component.

Commenting on new data released by AMTA and Deloitte Access Economics showing that with the fifth generation of mobile technologies the productivity benefits of mobile telecommunications look set to be worth A$65 billion to the Australian economy by 2023, the Association’s CEO Chris Althaus named Australia as a forerunner in terms of the rollout of 5G.

Chris Althaus, CEO, AMTA“However, we need the government to play a key role to support the deployment of infrastructure to enable an effective 5G future that benefits Australian business and society while keeping us a global frontrunner,” Althaus said.

The Mobile Nation 2019 – the 5G Future report unveiled that the mobile industry, which has grown by 43% over the last six years, is a key employer across a range of Australian industries.

“The mobile industry is an enabler of economic growth with the industry itself making a significant contribution to GDP and employment. But the full benefits are much broader as it provides new pathways for businesses to create value, supports productivity and even helps people join the labour force,” added Althaus.

The report found that the mobile sector already contributes significantly to the Australian economy, supporting about A23 billion of the nation’s GDP.  With the 5G mobile network set to kick off this year, it forecasts that the wider economic benefits of mobile will contribute more than the overall contribution of the agricultural sector – equivalent to A$2,500 value added for every Australian.

“5G will create a gradual transition to a more networked and connected society, it will shift the way Australians interact with the world and provide greater productivity benefits by streamlining businesses and transforming services to drive Australia’s economy forward,” the report authors said.

Other key findings of the report included:

  • Revenue generated by the mobile industry has also significantly grown over the last six years, up 15%, from A$22.0 billion in 2011-12 to A$25.2 billion in 2017/18.
  • Total value added to Australia’s GDP by the industry was A$22.9 billion in 2017-18, including A$8.2 billion contributed through direct activities, and A$14.7 billion supported through indirect activity in related sectors and across the broader economy.
  • The sector supports over 116,000 full-time equivalent workers, comprising over 25,000 employees directly employed by the industry and 91,200 jobs indirectly supported (nearly four more equivalent full-time roles (3.7) are supported in the economy for every one person directly employed by the industry).
  • The mobile industry is expected to account for 64% of Australian telecommunications service providers’ revenue in 2018-2019.

 

‘Mobile Nation 2019 – the 5G Future’ provides an economic analysis of the mobile telecommunications industry in 2017/18, using econometric modelling to estimate how the mobile industry contributes to the economy, both through its own activity and by fostering productivity more broadly. 

It also draws on findings of a bespoke nationally representative survey of over 1,000 individuals by Dynata undertaken in January 2019. Survey participants were asked about their use of mobiles, attitudes to mobile technology and their online behaviour.

DOCOMO, STP TEST INDONESIAN DRONE-BASED TELCO TOWER INSPECTION

PRESS RELEASE

NTT DOCOMO and PT Solusi Tunas Pratama (STP), a company that leases out telecommunication towers in Indonesia, have agreed to test a service, named docomo sky for Tower Inspection, that uses drones to photograph base stations and telecom towers and transmit the information to a command center in real time.

The partners hope to expand the scope of the test to include other locations and facilities prior to launching a full-scale commercial service in the first half of this year.

The system being tested is based on an operational drone-based tower inspection system developed by DOCOMO for its commercial network throughout Japan, and supports the “docomo sky” ground control station (GCS) app for assistance in inspection tasks, enabling drone operators to input flight data with ease.

For the test, DOCOMO will provide its cloud-based platform for operational support and data analysis. The drones fly automatically, take photos and transmit the images via the platform in real time, enabling technicians to inspect the towers via the docomo sky web browser immediately.

Indonesia is undergoing rapid urban development, including the construction of tall buildings and transportation infrastructure, which has resulted in large structures occasionally interfering with radio propagation from telecom towers. STP, which manages such facilities, must dispatch technicians to visually check conditions by climbing the towers.

The new service will enable remote inspections to be conducted much more quickly and safely than at present, thereby allowing STP to achieve greater customer satisfaction with its service to mobile network operators. In addition, the service is expected to support efforts to speed up procedures for inspecting and restoring telecom facilities in Indonesia whenever a natural disaster occurs.

DOCOMO will continue to develop and upgrade its advanced drone services, one of the many ways the company is serving society by leveraging its diverse technical assets and know-how, including mobile network technology and platform businesses.