ABS digital stats review could reveal NBN risks

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ABS digital stats review could reveal NBN risks

May fill crucial gaps in broadband market intelligence.

Australia’s national statistician may soon be able to offer the national network builder a deeper understanding of the potential revenue risks facing its business.

A year-long review of Australian Bureau of Statistic’s current ICT data collection policy could see the agency move to fill critical information gaps in its internet usage survey, including trends around the number of houses that rely solely on mobile or wireless broadband technologies for internet access.

NBN has consistently identified aggressive mobile broadband technology pricing and potential growth in mobile-only premises as a risk to its revenue modelling – a warning that it repeated in its 2016 corporate plan.

However, the ABS’ biennial survey of internet providers is currently unable to provide an accurate picture of the trend.

iTnews understands that the review may change that, giving NBN access to official government figures on the proportion of mobile-only households for the first time.

Currently, the ABS only collects statistics from internet providers that reveal aggregate numbers of the kind of internet connections that Australians use. However, those numbers can’t reveal whether Australian consumers are using one or multiple kinds of each connection for their internet access.

NBN currently relies on a forecast that mobile-only households will hold steady at around 15 percent for its economic projections. The figure provided by private telco analyst firm Ovum is believed to be around two to three years old.

Foad Fadaghi, managing director of rival analyst firm Telsyte, said its regular consumer survey revealed that mobile or wireless-only households make up closer to 20 percent of the Australian total.

“It has been growing in recent years,” Fadaghi told iTnews.

NBN declined to comment on the provenance and age of the data informing its mobile-only household figures.

“It’s a forecast, and broadband take-up is continuing to rise. Nothing has happened in the take-up rates of the service to dissuade us from the 15 percent figure. If we believe the figure has changed we will adjust it,” an NBN spokesman said.

Review findings coming soon

The ABS yesterday told iTnews the stats review had struck some minor delays but that its report was expected “imminently”.

It launched the review jointly with the Department of Communications' research bureau in February 2015. It sought to find flaws in its current ICT data collection policy in order to improve government insights into the sector. The review's findings and recommendations were to then be published in a report.

The terms of reference for the review required the two agencies to identify “gaps, overlaps, limitations and appropriateness of existing ABS ICT statistics” and to examine the possibility of using big data methods to deepen understanding of the sector.

According to the communications department’s web site, the review has attracted around 35 submissions. The review process was expected to be completed in June 2015 but no deadline was set for the report’s release.

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