Download shortages no argument against NBN

Market research finds Australians are downloading a fraction of their monthly quotas, but firm urges NBN still viable

Broadband subscribers are faced with more download capacity than ever but are using a smaller fraction than what they purchased, according to a new report into Australian broadband use.

According to research firm Market Clarity, total download capacities have exploded by 20.2 times since 2006, with a total of approximately 1.4 exabytes being purchased through ISP plans last year in Australia.

However, during the same period users increased their download use by only 5.3 times, widening the gap between the number of gigabytes purchased and those used.

In one estimate, the report indicates Australians downloaded approximately 367,000 terabytes (TB) of the 1,400,000 TB (or 1.4 exabytes) purchased as part of plans during 2010, amounting to use of about 26.1 per cent of total downloads purchased.

Research conducted by the firm, using estimates based on current provider plans and data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, found each Australian broadband subscriber downloads an average of 7GB every month.

The report notes that as download caps offered by ISPs rise, those plans with less than 5GB of monthly quota have become less available, even if the user does not require substantial download capacities.

“As the capacity available to even the entry-level user rises, so has the residential user’s consumption of download allowances,” the report reads.

However, the firm argued that conclusions drawn from the research did not argue against the NBN, which has been touted as a faster and higher capacity network for Australian residential users. To do, the report reads, “overlooks the complex relationship between user behaviour, the volume of data downloaded and the speed of the connection”.

Instead, the report suggests the advent of higher speeds - such as the committed 100 megabits per second (Mbps) promised under the NBN - and new applications as a result of those speeds would likely drive broadband use much higher in coming years.

Though some ISPs have continued the push for unlimited download and upload quotas, most are retaining capped downloads.

According to NBN Co, download quotas could average 2TB once providers begin offering plans.

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