We have become so used to rapid changes in technology that we can lose perspective on shifts and trends. Nearly every day we see a new app, every month a major new device is launched, and every few months many of us make another fundamental change in how we use technology.
Telecoms businesses bear the brunt of these changes in our behaviour with technology so they are a great place to look for data on trends. I’ve just taken a look through data from Telstra*, the former national telco of Australia, and from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and there are some very clear trends:
Australians are not usually early adopters so these findings are likely to be reflected the world over.
2011 was the year in which calls from mobiles overtook calls from landlines.
In 2011 an estimated 16.4 billion minutes of calls were made from landlines on Telstra’s network compared to 13.5 billion minutes from Telstra mobiles. On the face of it then, the landline still rules. However Telstra retails 80% of landlines (8.5 million of Australia’s 10.7 million fixed lines), but has a lower share of the mobile market at around 50% of subscribers. Assuming Telstra and non-Telstra customers behave the same way, we get the following phone call volume estimates
|Calls from landlines – minutes||22.6 billion||20.5 billion|
|Call from mobiles – minutes||22.9 billion||27.0 billion|
In 2010 the two call formats were about equal, but in 2011 mobiles became the preferred calling device.
The UK seems to be seeing a similar tipping point according to a report a few months ago in The Daily Telegraph
The overall call minutes from Telstra customers show a year on year decline but this is exaggerated by the shift from landline to mobile, where Telstra has a lower market share. Despite the exaggeration, overall call volumes are still declining.
On a five year basis Telstra landline call volumes have been falling by 9.9% a year while Telstra mobile call volumes have only been growing at 7.5% a year. This suggests an average decline in wider Australian phone usage of 2.4% a year, or 12.5% over five years.
2011 slightly skews the data as Telstra saw extra growth in mobile subscribers, and therefore absolute mobile call volumes. The five year story however remains consistent – call volumes through all devices are down.
This data shows mobile usage for the average subscriber: call and text volumes are from Telstra, data volumes are from ABS and so are based on all networks.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that by June 2011 the amount of data being downloaded through the internet was running at an average of 87.5 GB per subscriber per year, or 7.3 GB per month.
On a per subscriber basis this is 43% higher than in June 2010 when it was 61.1 GB per year. But because the number of internet subscribers has grown by nearly 15% in twelve months to 10.9 million, the overall amount of data being transferred in Australia is up 64% to 77,700 TB per month.
The surge in 2011 partially reflects Australia starting to get better infrastructure. I would expect the increase to have been less in the US where the infrastructure is of a much higher quality overall.
So, while some clear and not unsurprising shifts have occurred in the last five years, in 2011 several telecom trends reached an inflexion point
* Telstra’s data makes a good case study as it has retained its dominant position in the Australian market across fixed line, mobile and internet so it reflects Australian behaviour. It also publishes very detailed datasets compared to the likes of BT, Deutsche Telekom and AT&T. And since the Aussies are not known for being particularly quick adopters of technology, what is happening for them is likely to be reflected elsewhere in the world.
About a year ago I wrote two posts on telecoms, and these remain some of the most viewed on this blog to date