Comment: A snapshot of the Internet in Australia

Australians are downloading more data than ever, the latest ABS figures reveal. (AAP)

The latest Internet usage statistics are out, and they reveal that Australians are downloading more data than ever before, writes John Elliott.

New figures published by the Bureau of Statistics paint a picture of how the Internet continues to grow in Australia.

The volume of data downloaded continues to gather pace – up by factor of five in only a few years – while the NBN is driving growth in fibre connections. The Australian Capital Territory is the most connected place in Australia, followed by Queensland.

Between December 2009 and June 2013, the volume of data downloaded by Australians increased five-fold. From April to June 2013, Australians downloaded 657,262 terabytes, up from 127,954 terabytes over a three month period 2009.

Around 7,223 terabytes have been downloaded per day in 2013, which is equivalent to 314 megabytes of data per person per day. To put this in context, this is roughly the same size as half a million tweets, one thousand Facebook profile views, 80 music tracks or over six minutes of standard definition YouTube video – per person per day.

If we assume that there are a lot of Australians that download no music and no video each day – then it’s clear that there are also a lot of heavy Internet users out there.

The number of sites that provide data is shrinking over time as user traffic consolidates towards a limited selection of Internet giants. Analysis offered at a recent technology summit tells us that in the United States this year around 50 per cent of all traffic has come from a mere 35 websites or services. Google, YouTube and Netflix alone account for roughly 30 per cent of traffic in the U.S. As streaming video becomes ubiquitous and high definition streaming gains popularity, we can only expect the upward trend in data volumes, and consolidation of sites and services to continue.

One of the other interesting stories to come out of the figures is the growth in optical fibre connections. This is interesting because fibre is the technology that underpins the National Broadband Network (NBN).

There is more than ten times the number of Internet subscribers using fibre this year than there were in 2009. At the moment, however, fibre remains a relatively rare technology in Australia. It provides only about one-in-one hundred internet connections, or one-in-fifty fixed-line connections.

Finally, the figures allow us to compare the connectivity in each state and territory. It is perhaps unsurprising that the wealthiest and most urbanised state or territory, the ACT, also features the highest number of Internet connections per person. Canberra has almost 0.6 connections per person, which means that there are 1.6 residents per Internet connection.

At the other end of the scale, the Northern Territory has 0.45 internet connections per resident, which means each Internet connection is shared by 2.2 residents.

The remaining states and territories are fairly even in terms of connectivity rates. Of the big states, Queensland is just ahead of Victoria in the connectivity stakes.

John Elliott is a freelance data-driven writer originally from Scotland but now based in Brisbane.

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