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Mobile broadband has been directly responsible for a $33.8 billion increase in economic activity (measured in terms of Gross Domestic Product) in 2013, or a 2.28% contribution to Australia’s total GDP..

The figure is contained in a report from the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) called ‘The economic impacts of mobile broadband on the Australian economy, from 2006 to 2013,’ which it says “brings home the realisation that the connectedness of mobile broadband has had a major impact on Australia’s productivity and overall economic growth”

“It’s been trite to say of late that whether you’re videoconferencing on the go or chatting with friends on the evening commute, mobile broadband helps people everywhere to stay connected,” said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman, releasing the report.

‘We know that mobile broadband enriches our work and private lives on a daily basis, in ways that were unheard of a decade ago. But with this ground-breaking research, we now see the real dollar value of these daily connections—the value of these connections enhanced by a world’s best-practice approach to spectrum management.”

The research confirms that the economic impact of mobile broadband in 2013 consisted of:

  • productivity growth from the mobile communications sector that led to an increase of $7.3 billion in Australia’s economic activity (GDP)/
  • time savings for businesses as a result of mobile broadband use that led to a further $26.5 billion increase in Australia’s economic activity.

“Alternatively expressed, as a result of this growth, every Australian now effectively has, on average each year, $652 more cash in their pocket. This research shows that Australians have actually reaped the rewards of wireless communication for many years.

“Tthe ACMA is constantly seeking to strike a balance between the economic value of the spectrum, the interests of incumbents and their sunk investments, and the pressures of finding practical solutions for other competing and emerging interests.”

Chapman said the ACMA continues to explore ways to maximise the value of finite spectrum resources. The mobile broadband research provides essential evidence to inform the ACMA’s spectrum management activities in an evolving communications environment.

The report was commissioned by the ACMA from the Centre for International Economics and Analysys Mason. The full report is available here.

Economy-wide impacts

The report says Mobile broadband increased the growth rate of the Australian economy by 0.28% each year from 2007 to 2013. In 2013, mobile broadband increased Australia’s economic activity by $33.8 billion. This is equivalent to 2.28% of Australia’s GDP.

 Productivity within the mobile broadband sector

  • Productivity of the mobile sector increased by 11.3% per year from 2006 to 2013.
  • Outputs of the mobile communications sector have risen rapidly from 2006 to 2013:
  • connections have risen by more than 50%
  • voice minutes have risen by more than 150%
  • data use is 1,000 times higher than what it was in 2006

Productivity from business mobile broadband use

  • Businesses reported that on average, mobile broadband has reduced business costs by 1.4%, and saving 2.3% of employees’ time, in 2013.
  • Sectors citing the largest impacts from mobile broadband are electricity, gas, water and waste services; transport, postal and warehousing; administrative and support services; and financial and insurance services.
  • Mobile data use is expected to grow at an annual rate of 38%, from an estimated monthly average of 22.2 petabytes in 2013 to 81.1 petabytes in 2017. One petabyte equals a million gigabytes.
  • 4G data traffic is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 76% for 2013–17.

Expected growth in mobile broadband

  • Mobile data use is expected to grow at an annual rate of 38%, from an estimated monthly average of 22.2 petabytes in 2013 to 81.1 petabytes in 2017. One petabyte equals a million gigabytes.
  • 4G data traffic is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 76% for 2013–17.

Report methodology

The economic impacts of mobile broadband on the Australian economy, from 2006 to 2013 used general equilibrium economic modelling to show the economy-wide impacts arising from mobile broadband.

The model used the Centre for International Economics’ 53-sector, eight-region computable general equilibrium model of the Australian economy, based on the Productivity Commission’s MMRF-NRA model.

The report draws on a number of key data sources including:

  • Mobile broadband traffic and usage data between 2006 and 2013 provided by Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.
  • Statistics on Australia’s mobile communications industry provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • A survey of 1,002 Australian businesses—Business Mobile Communications Usage and Impact Survey—assessing the productivity improvements achieved by business through the use of mobile broadband.
  • A range of industry reports, including from IBISWorld, Analysys Mason, Ovum, Evans & Peck and Cisco.

Mobile broadband research is a key component of the ACMA’s broader research program, which assists it to make evidence-informed decisions in the contemporary communications and media environment.

Mobile broadband research is significantly contributing to the ongoing development of the ACMA’s future mobile broadband strategy. The ACMA says further details of this strategy are will be announced around July 2014.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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