Australian Mobiles hit the 16.5M mark – prepaid at 43% SMS >5Bn messages annually

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Growth in mobile phone services in Australia and the emergence of wireless broadband technology were among telecommunications industry highlights last financial year, according to the Australian Communications Authority’s (ACA) Telecommunications Performance Report 2003-04. Access the report here.

Tabled in parliament recently by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, the annual ACA report covers the performance of carriers and carriage service providers (CSPs), and reports on consumer satisfaction, consumer benefits and quality of service.

ACA Acting Chairman Allan Horsley said mobile phone services grew by 15.4 per cent or 2.2 million to a total of 16.5 million at 30 June 2004. Growth was largely driven by prepaid services which accounted for 43 per cent of all mobile services, up from 38 last year.

“The continued popularity of pre-paid services demonstrates the value consumers perceive in having more control over mobile service expenditure and the ability to avoid lengthy contracts,” Mr Horsley said.

The ACA report had also found that wireless broadband and access to broadband services expanded during 2003-04. Wireless broadband had emerged as an alternative for providing broadband services to residential and business customers in metropolitan areas and selected regional centres.
Summarising the mobile aspects of the report:

  • Significant industry growth was recorded, with the gap between the number of mobile service and fixed line connections widening.
  • Short message service (SMS) usage continued to grow, stimulated by an increasing array of SMS applications such as SMS content services, voting on interactive TV shows and SMS ‘chat’ with over 5Bn SMS sent in 2003-2004.
  • Take-up of Hutchison’s third generation (3G) mobile phone services increased significantly in the latter half of 2003’04, after modest growth at the beginning of the year for Australia’s first 3G network.
  • The introduction of ‘capped’ calling plans contributed to greater consumer choice in mobile pricing plans.
  • Sales of mobile handsets increased significantly during 2003-04, indicating that consumers were replacing handsets more frequently.
  • The availability of a dual-mode CDMA and satellite handset enabled people in rural and remote Australia to access both terrestrial and satellite networks from a single handset for the first time.
  • All indicators of outcomes for consumers from the use of mobile services-including perceived utility leading to movements in consumer take-up, usage, price, and changes in network coverage and service quality-either improved or remained broadly consistent with those for 2002-03.
  • Significant concerns were reported by consumer groups and through the ACA’s 2004 consumer satisfaction survey.
  • Improvements are required in the following areas: closer regulation of premium rate services, particularly price caps and content regulation; improved-shorter and less complex-mobile phone contracts and better advice to be provided at the point of sale; and action to address the high level of mobile phone debt, particularly for young people.

Access the ACA report here

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