Not enough Australian dial-up users to bother counting, ABS says

End of an era for Australian Internet access

Is it the end of an era or had the era already ended long ago? The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) twice a year releases its Internet Activity report, containing a host of information about how we access the Internet — and the latest edition featured a noticeable absence.

The statistics in the report are based on data collected from Australian Internet service providers (ISPs) with more than 1000 customers. Key figures include the volume of data downloaded — a massive 2.6 exabytes in the last three months of 2016, the latest report says — and the number of small, medium and large ISPs in the market.

The latest report, which was released earlier this week, is historic for two reasons. Firstly, it revealed that DSL-technologies, such as ADSL and ADSL2, are beginning to decline in Australia. The ABS reported that DSL connections dropped from around 5.03 million at the end of 2015 to 4.72 million at the end of 2016.

That decline is presumably related to the increased rollout of the National Broadband Network, which is replacing ADSL with fibre-based technologies, such as fibre to the premises and fibre to the node, as well as hybrid-fibre coaxial and fixed wireless.

The latest Internet Activity report revealed that the fastest growing family of technologies was fibre (1.4 million subscribers).

But the second reason the latest Internet Activity report is noteworthy is that the ABS has decided that the time has come to stop counting Australian dial-up connections.

The first edition of the Internet Activity report — released in March 2001 and based on data from the three months ending September 2000 — reported that there 3.75 million ISP customers with dial-up Internet access. (This initial edition of the Internet Activity report drew data from all ISPs registered with the Telecommunications Ombudsman “as well as those identified from other sources”.)

The largest portion of those were using standard analog dial-up services (89 per cent or 3.35 million). DSL, by way of contrast, accounted for just 6000 connections.

The last edition of the Internet Activity report to count dial-up subscribers — the edition based on the three months ending June 2016 — counted just 90,000 dial-up connections.

“Each cycle of the survey includes a review of the relevance of outputs and the ability to capture the data for those outputs, along with the ABS' ability to release outputs without disclosing confidential information,” an ABS spokesperson told Computerworld.

“Based on feedback from the industry, the judgment was made, prior to running the December 2016 survey, not to collect information about the number of dial-up subscribers. The June 2016 Internet Activity Survey release reported that 0.7 per cent of total subscriptions were reported as being dial-up.”

So dial-up may not be completely dead in Australia — but there are not many people left who get to enjoy this sweet sound when connecting to the Internet:

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