While the debate still rages over Australia’s US$32bn fibre rollout, blanketing most of the country with superfast fixed-line broadband connections over the next eight years, the country’s mobile-loving population is signing up in droves to speedy internet of the wireless variety.
Telstra, the incumbent operator with the country’s only substantial 4G LTE network, reported earlier this month that it had 2.1m subscribers to its 4G service, which advertises speeds of up to 40Mbps. Telstra’s LTE network is available to about 40% of the population (and expected to rise to 66% by the end of the year). This means that, roughly speaking, around 9% of Australia’s population (and 22% of people currently covered by a network) subscribe to LTE, a share that bodes well for deployments planned elsewhere in the world.
On the fixed-line side, the government-owned National Broadband Network (NBN) says that at the end of 2012 some 34,500 homes and businesses subscribed to the superfast fibre network, around 17% of the total number of premises expected to be connected by this June. Just over 40% of these have taken the fastest possible service, 100Mbps, with the rest choosing slower download speeds.
Australians are accustomed to connecting to the web on the move. The country has the third-highest mobile broadband penetration rate in the world, 97%, behind only Korea and Sweden, according to the OECD. This far outshines Australia’s fixed-line broadband penetration rate of 25%. This raises the question of how superfast fixed and wireless connectivity will develop in tandem. Will superfast speeds direct to the home entice more Australians to subscribe to fibre in addition to their LTE subscriptions? Or will LTE provide enough speed and capacity? Much of the answer will come down to the price and range of services available on fibre-to-the-home connections (like pay-TV). The government is planning to shut down the copper lines currently used for most fixed connections, in effect forcing greater take-up (although not necessarily the full 100Mbps service.) At the moment, in the race for subscribers, LTE is in the lead.
The EIU's Telecoms Briefing offers forecasts and analysis for the world’s major telecoms markets, by combining reliable historical data with the expertise of our country analysts to project trends for the next five years.