Aussie download quotas up, prices down

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Aussie download quotas up, prices down

ACCC details state of play in telco sector.

Australians are paying less for more data thanks to competition in the telecommunications sector and the boom in streaming services, according to the country's competition watchdog.

Data consumption on fixed networks grew by 40 percent to 1.3 million terabytes between June 2014 and June 2015 , the ACCC said today, and by 85 percent on mobile networks.

Streaming services likes Netflix and Presto were unsurprisingly highlighted as the cause of data consumption growth, with telcos forced to response to the increase in demand by bolstering their networks to avoid capacity issues.

Telstra, as one example, established 90 new DSL sites since July 2014 and plans to upgrade backhaul to around 3000 DSL sites by the end of the first quarter of this year, the ACCC said.

In mobile, Optus said it invested over $1.5 billion in its network. Telstra said it poured $1 billion into mobile infrastructure over 2014-15, and will spend $5 billion to June 2017. Vodafone did not provide a dollar figure.

Telcos have also boosted data allowances in response to demand, the ACCC reported. DSL internet subscibers saw their quotas grow by over 70 percent over 2014-15, while data allowances for post-paid mobile services more than doubled.

In good news for consumers, prices fell at the same time by 0.5 percent.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims noted that the price decrease was smaller than the 3.3 percent average annual drop, but argued this indicated that telcos were competiting in areas other than price.

"Both fixed line and mobile service providers increased data quotas, introduced innovative data services, and bundled subscriptions to streaming services in their plans," the ACCC wrote.

The watchdog said it expected service providers would continue to look at new ways to differentiate themselves, through things like bundling and service discounts, especially as the roll out of the NBN increases.

However, Sims pledged to keep an eye on telcos to ensure customers receive proper information about network performance.

"Promoting transparency about network performance will allow service providers to further compete on service quality, not just price," the ACCC said.

"The complexity of communications products, and the rollout of the NBN, means that consumers require clear, accurate and useful information to make informed decisions.

"Further, the increasing demand for data and focus on service quality will mean it will be important for consumers to be able to make meaningful comparisons between the services offered on networks."

Sims reiterated the ACCC's view that any further consolidation between the players in the fixed broadband market would likely attract the watchdog's attention, following the merger of TPG and iiNet, and Vocus, Amcom and M2.

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