Australian Internet subscribers up, ISPs down

The Australian Internet market is growing slowly in subscriber terms and seeing a decrease in the number of ISPs (Internet service providers), according to statistics released Thursday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Subscriber numbers grew by 332,000 or 8.6 percent from 3.85 million at the end of September last year to 4.18 million at the end of June 2001, representing a penetration rate of 22 percent of the population.

In the most populous state of New South Wales, which contains Sydney, Internet subscriptions have not grown in the last nine months. Subscriptions fell almost 20 percent in the Australian Capital Territory, which contains the national capital Canberra.

Since September last year, the number of ISPs has fallen 12.6 percent from 718 to 628, mainly due to small ISPs exiting the business. But the number of large ISPs with more than 100,000 customers fell from eight to five during the last nine months, ABS said. These five ISPs now provide Internet access to 57 percent of Australian subscribers.

ABS noted very different download patterns between consumer and business users. Consumers downloaded an average of 176M bytes each during the June quarter, compared to 1.09G bytes downloaded per business subscriber. Total data downloaded in the quarter reached 1.2T bytes (1 T byte=1,000 G bytes).

Australia's Internet penetration rate puts it into the high-penetration category in Asia, alongside New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, according to figures from Netratings Inc.

The second tier of countries, with penetration rates between 5 percent and 10 percent include Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Even though China has over 23 million Internet subscribers, its penetration rate is around 2 percent; India's is even lower.

Overall, Internet subscriptions in Asia are expected to grow 37 percent per year over the next four years, from 48.7 million subscribers at the end of 2000 to 173 million in 2004, according to analyst eMarketer Inc.

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