Broadband growth steadies as subscriber numbers increase

Despite experiencing strong take-up across all high-speed technologies, a new broadband report from the ACCC has found overall growth rates continue to hover below those recorded 12 months ago.

The latest quarterly Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Snapshot of Broadband Deployment, released on Thursday, reported Australia’s broadband subscriptions more than doubled over the past 12 months, rising from 199,800 in March 2002 to 423,600 in March 2003.

Sign-ups between December 2002 and March 2003 leapt by 60,100 from 363,500 users – an increase of 16.5 per cent. This represents a slightly higher take-up rate than the average 16.4 per cent growth recorded in Q4, 2002.

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, welcomed the subscriber numbers, saying they represented the strong growth rates being experienced by ISPs over the past few months. Both Telstra BigPond retail and Telstra Wholesale DSL announced record broadband take-up figures earlier this year.

Although the stability of this quarter’s growth rate is a positive sign, the ACCC says it still remains below the 21 per cent growth recorded in Q3 and the 29 per cent growth recorded in Q2 2002.

Shadow Minister for Information Technology and Sport, Senator Kate Lundy, claimed the figures signal Australia’s decline in the world economy for broadband development.

Lundy pointed to the most recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) broadband league table as illustrative of Australia’s fall behind both European and Asian nations in the adoption of broadband technologies. Australia is now 23rd on the league table, after Estonia. In 2002, Australia was 19th, while in 2000 the OECD reported Australia as having the 13th highest broadband take-up rate.

“Broadband uptake in Australia remains a victim of poor competition, resulting in high prices and download caps, not to mention poor infrastructure investment. All this acts as a strong disincentive for consumers,” Lundy said in a press statement.

Growth rates across specific types of broadband technologies were more favourable. DSL technologies boasted the highest growth rates, rising by over 200 per cent between March 2002 and March 2003, or from 68,100 to 218,800 subscribers. ADSL accounted for more than half this figure, increasing from 64,200 to 160,600 subscribers.

Cable broadband take-up grew by 107 per cent over the same period, increasing from 92,500 users to 191,900 by March 2003.

The report also found residential users continue to adopt broadband technologies at a higher rate than their business counterparts. In the last quarter, broadband users rose across the two demographics to a total of 264,600 and 75,800, respectively.

Growth experienced by both groups was also higher than that of the previous quarter: residential users increased by 30,900 in Q1 2003, up from 25,000 in Q4 2002, while business users rose by 5300 users, up from 3900 sign-ups in Q4 2002.

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Nadia Cameron

Nadia Cameron

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