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Latest release

Internet Activity, Australia methodology

Reference period
June 2018
Released
2/10/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Explanatory notes

Introduction

1 This release presents results from the Internet Activity Survey (IAS) conducted in respect of the three months ended 30 June 2018. This is the final release for this publication.

Subscribers

2 The ABS counts the number of subscribers that have an internet connection with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) on the last day of the reference period. ABS subscriber statistics measure the number of 'subscriber lines' rather than the number of 'users' and therefore, counts of subscribers are not the same as counts of people/organisations with internet access. This is because some subscribers may have accounts with more than one ISP or multiple accounts with a single ISP. Conversely, there are single ISP subscriber accounts that provide internet access for multiple people/organisations (e.g. universities).

Statistical unit

3 The unit for which statistics are reported in the IAS is the legal entity providing internet access.

4 ISPs in the IAS have been classified by size according to the number of subscribers that ISPs reported at the end of the reference period. The size categories are defined as follows:

Size of ISPNumber of subscribers
Medium ISP1,001 - 10,000
Large ISP10,001 - 100,000
Very large ISP100,001 or more

Scope and coverage

5 The June 2018 IAS covers ISPs who operated in Australia as at 30 June 2018 that had more than 1,000 subscribers. ISPs are defined as businesses that supply internet connectivity and access services to individuals, households, businesses, government and other organisations. Hotels, libraries, internet kiosks, internet cafes and hotspots that provide internet access on a casual basis are excluded from the survey population.

6 The source of the IAS population frame is a list of ISPs from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), with whom ISPs are required to register. Using this list as a basis, the ABS maintains its own list of ISPs. The TIO register may contain the following organisations that are out of scope or counted differently on the IAS: those that are no longer operating as ISPs, including wholesalers and web hosting ISPs only; those where there is common ownership and, therefore reporting is consolidated for these ISPs on the IAS; and other types of organisations that are required to register with the TIO (e.g. telecommunications companies that do not provide ISP services).

7 The reference periods for IAS are June and December to align with international reporting of broadband statistics by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Reference period

8 This release relates to information as at 30 June 2018, except for volume of data downloaded, which is for the three months ended 30 June 2018.

Imputation

9 Where data were missing or required clarification, respondents were contacted in the first instance. When necessary, missing data were imputed based on historical data.

Rounding

10 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between the sum of components and the total.

Reliability of data

11 As the IAS does not have a sample component, the data are not subject to sampling variability. However, other inaccuracies, collectively referred to as non-sampling errors, may affect the data. These non-sampling errors may arise from a number of sources, including:

  • errors in the reporting of data by respondents;
  • errors in capturing or processing of data;
  • estimation for missing or misreported data; and
  • definition and classification errors.
     

12 Every effort has been made to reduce non-sampling error by careful design and testing of questionnaires, efficient operating procedures and systems, appropriate methodology, and contact with providers to resolve anomalies. Errors in previous cycles' data are only revised where they have a significant impact on the data released.

13 The statistics on volume of data downloaded should only be considered as an indicative measure of internet activity during the reference period and therefore should be used with caution. The ability of ISPs to report volumes of data downloaded is variable. For example, there may be differences in reporting of billable vs. free content, downloads and uploads may not always be separable and ISPs may use recording systems that are not extracting data download information on an equivalent basis.

Acknowledgement

14 The ABS releases draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated for without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

15 Other ABS releases on information technology and telecommunications in Australia are:

Business Use of Information Technology, cat. no. 8129.0

Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, cat. no. 8146.0

Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business, cat. no. 8166.0

Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, cat. no. 8167.0

Glossary

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Broadband

Defined by the ABS as an 'always on' internet connection with an access speed of 256kbps or higher. The ABS separates broadband into fixed-line/wired (for example, DSL, cable and fibre) and wireless (for example, satellite, fixed and mobile wireless). At present, the ABS does not count broadband internet connections via a mobile handset in the main subscriber numbers, but instead publishes handset data as a separate series of data.

Cable

Broadband internet technology that uses the cable television (CATV) infrastructure. The connection uses a coaxial cable or Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) and is typically used as the 'last mile' or 'access network' technology.

Data downloaded

The volume of data downloaded from the internet by subscribers in the three months of the quarterly reference period. Volume of data downloaded is published by the ABS in Terabytes and excludes data uploaded. The ABS collects data downloaded split by fixed-line broadband, wireless broadband and via a mobile handset.

Dial-up subscribers

Subscribers who connect to the internet via a dial-up modem that requires the exclusive use of a phone line.

Digital subscriber line (DSL)

A family of technologies that provides digital data transmission over the local telephone network. This suite of technologies, now referred to as xDSL, includes Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL, ADSL2, ADSL2+) and Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL), etc. DSL is excluded from ABS counts where it is not used for internet connectivity (e.g. leased lines).

Download speeds

For the purposes of the Internet Activity Survey, download speed is equivalent to the advertised or theoretical maximum speed of data transfer rate. This can differ considerably from actual speeds experienced by internet users, which can vary based on factors such as the modem, the distance from the node or exchange and the level of internet traffic.

Exabyte

A measure of data download volume. It is equivalent to one billion gigabytes (GB) or one million terabytes (TB).

Fibre

Broadband network architecture that uses optical fibre or 'access network' technology. There are a number of types of fibre deployments including Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), Fibre to the Node (FTTN), Fibre to the Home (FTTH), and Fibre to the Building (FTTB). Fibre used only for back haul is excluded from counts of fibre internet connections.

Fixed wireless broadband

A terrestrial point-to-point microwave or radio link, generally building to building or tower to building, which allows subscribers within the receiving building to access the internet. Sender and receiver must generally be within line-of-sight and no more than 22 kilometres apart, although newer generations of this technology have overcome some of these obstacles. An example of this technology is fixed WiMax.

Gigabytes (GB)

A measure of data download volume. A data unit of one billion bytes, sometimes interpreted as 1,024 megabytes.

Internet

A world-wide public system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet Protocol (IP). Organisations and individuals can connect their computers to this network and exchange information across a country and/or across the world. The internet provides access to a number of communication services including the World Wide Web and carries email, news, entertainment and data files. For ABS purposes, the internet connection counted must provide the user with access to the World Wide Web.

Internet access

Availability of lines, points, ports, and modems to subscribers to access the internet.

Internet service provider (ISP)

Resident Australian individuals or businesses offering internet access services to customers. So as to avoid double counting of subscribers, the ABS collects data from retail ISPs and excludes all wholesale activities (i.e. the ABS only counts the number of subscriptions to the end user).

Internet protocol television (IPTV)

Internet Protocol Television is the process of transmitting and broadcasting television programs through the internet. A broadband connection is used as the medium of transmission for IPTV.

Kilobits per second (kbps)

A measure of data transfer rate. A unit of data transfer that equates to one thousand bits per second.

Megabits per second (Mbps)

A measure of data transfer rate. A unit of data transfer that equates to one million bits per second.

Mobile handset

A hand held, electronic, mobile device used to transmit or communicate data, images or voice over a cellular network. This includes smartphones such as the iPhone, Windows phone and Android based phones, but excludes tablets such as the iPad. Currently, the ABS counts internet subscribers via a mobile handset separately from other internet subscribers. Mobile handset data is therefore not included in subscriber counts for sector or speed.

Mobile wireless broadband

An internet connection which provides short range, high data rate connections between mobile data devices and access points connected to a network. Examples include mobile WiMax and 3G/4G accessed through a datacard, USB modem, tablet SIM card or any other device used to connect a computer to a cellular network (excluding a mobile handset). Mobile wireless internet subscriptions via a mobile handset are currently excluded from this category for the purposes of the Internet Activity Survey, and are counted separately in the mobile handset chapter.

Naked DSL

Naked DSL refers to a DSL service that can be installed on a phone line that doesn't have an active phone number attached to it.

Satellite internet access

Internet access provided through a satellite. The satellite acts as a microwave relay station, receiving signals from a ground-based station, amplifying them and retransmitting them on a different frequency to another ground-based station. A clear line of sight is generally required between the satellite and the base stations.

Subscriber

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) customer to whom internet access is provided. Included are paying and non paying customers, dial-up subscribers and those with 'always on' (broadband) connections. Excluded are customers who purchase other services from an ISP, such as web hosting, but do not obtain internet access. A subscriber differs from a user or person/business as one user may have multiple accounts with a single ISP, or accounts with more than one ISP. Conversely, there are single ISP subscriber accounts that provide internet access for multiple people/organisations (e.g. universities).

Terabyte (TB)

A measure of data download volume. A data unit of one thousand billion bytes, sometimes interpreted as 1,024 gigabytes.

Voice over internet protocol VOIP

A system for converting analogue signals to digital so that telephone calls may be made over the internet.

Quality declaration

​​​​​​​Institutional environment

For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance

The Internet Activity Survey (IAS) provides key statistics on the supply of internet services and the participation of Australians in internet activities, including subscriber numbers by access technologies, download speed and volume of data downloaded. The results are utilised by analysts in both the private and public sectors and are used in international comparisons of broadband penetration.

The IAS covers all Australian based Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with more than 1,000 subscribers at the end of the reference period. ISPs are defined as businesses that supply internet connectivity and access services to individuals, households, businesses, government and other organisations. Libraries, internet kiosks, internet cafes and hot-spots which provide internet access on a casual basis are excluded from the collection. The IAS is conducted biannually in respect of the end of June and December in each year and collects details on aspects of internet access services provided by ISPs in Australia.

The unit for which statistics are reported in the IAS is the legal entity providing internet access. ISPs in the IAS have been classified by size according to the number of subscribers ISPs reported for the end of the reference period. The size categories are defined as follows:

Size of ISPNumber of subscribers
Medium ISP1,001 - 10,000
Large ISP10,001 - 100,000
Very large ISP100,001 or more

Timeliness

The IAS includes information reported by ISPs operating in Australia, with more than 1,000 active subscribers, as at 30 June and 31 December. This approach to the IAS provides frequent and timely data on key trends keeping resource usage and provider load to acceptable levels, particularly for the smaller ISPs.

Data are released approximately three months after the end of the reference period.

The June 2018 release of IAS will be the final iteration of the survey.

Accuracy

As the IAS does not have a sample component, the data are not subject to sampling variability. However, other inaccuracies, collectively referred to as non-sampling errors, may affect the data. These non-sampling errors may arise from a number of sources, including:

  • errors in the reporting of data by respondents;
  • errors in capturing or processing data;
  • estimation for missing or misreported data; and,
  • definition and classification errors.
     

Every effort has been made to reduce non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design and testing of the questionnaire, efficient operating procedures and systems, appropriate methodology and contact with providers to resolve anomalies. Response rates are generally very high which in turn increases the accuracy and level of the data which can be released for users. Thorough editing of the data received is undertaken to ensure that the integrity of the collection is upheld.

The ability of ISPs to report volumes of data downloaded is variable. For example, there may be differences in reporting of billable vs. free content, downloads and uploads may not always be separable and ISPs may use recording systems that are not extracting data download information on an equivalent basis. Data presented for this item should only be considered as an indicative measure of internet activity during the reference period and therefore should be used with caution.

Coherence

Content of the IAS has evolved since the commencement of the survey in 2001, and some data items are not always comparable over time. This has mainly been due to the take up of new technologies which previously did not exist, e.g. dial-up being replaced by broadband, higher access speeds and the emergence of mobile wireless access technology.

The number of ISPs reporting to the IAS does not necessarily equal the number of ISPs operating in Australia at the end of the reference period. This is partly due to IAS not collecting data from ISPs with less than 1,000 subscribers. Some ISPs have common ownership and as such provide data for all subsidiary ISPs on the one survey form. This should be taken into consideration when comparing the count of ISPs from the IAS to other data sources.

The IAS covers the supply side of the internet market where the following ABS collections cover the demand side of the internet market and should not be directly compared:

Interpretability

Active subscribers are defined as subscribers having accounts with ISPs who have accessed the internet or paid for access to the internet as at the end of the reference period. Counts of subscribers are not the same as counts of people/organisations with internet access because subscribers may have accounts with more than one ISP. Conversely, a single ISP subscriber account may provide internet access (or email addresses) for multiple people/organisations, for example universities.

Accessibility

All available data from the IAS are released in web-based information and commentary, and datacubes on the ABS website. 

For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070