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Internet Activity Survey
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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


There is policy interest in promoting internet use in the business and household sectors as access to the internet has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits. Business use of the internet can improve business productivity and international market access, while household use of the internet has various social implications related to skill development and service access. There is also policy interest in equality of access to internet services Australia wide, particularly in regional locations.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the main avenue of internet access for households and businesses. Hence, there is interest in statistics on the nature and growth of the ISP industry, characteristics and location of customers, and related telecommunications infrastructure. As the ISP industry is dynamic and continually evolving, there is also interest in a time series which measures changes to the industry and technologies. The Internet Activity Survey (IAS) is designed to meet these needs.

The main purpose of the ABS IAS is to provide a set of regular indicators of internet activity in Australia. This survey complements other ABS IT related surveys including Business Use of IT (BUIT), Household Use of IT (HUIT) and supplementary IT questions on the Census of Population and Housing.

Key users of this data are: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC); the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA); the Department of Communications; and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which utilise IAS data for international comparisons. An ongoing relationship with these key users allows the ABS to ensure their requirements are met by the IAS.

    The scope of the collection is all resident Australian ISPs (i.e. all businesses that supply internet connectivity services to individuals, businesses and other organisations). The ABS derives the population from a list of ISPs registered with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

    Organisations that provide internet access on a casual basis are excluded from the scope of the survey population. Examples of these types of organisations include:
  • Libraries
  • Internet kiosks
  • Internet cafes
  • Hotspots or hotzones

Most IAS survey cycles are conducted with a limited scope format. It is expected that the ABS will conduct a full census cycle at least every three years, with the last census conducted in respect of the June cycle 2010. Details of the reduced scope and census cycles are as follows:


All Australian ISPs are surveyed in a census cycle. One of two form types is sent to each ISP depending on the ISP's total number of subscribers.
  • ISPs with more than 1,000 active subscribers are sent a long form which asks all questions and covers all data items (i.e. type of subscriber, access technology, download speed, mobile handset internet subscribers, volume of data downloaded, location of subscriber, and other services offered); and
  • ISPs with 1,000 or less subscribers are sent a shorter version of the form which asks a subset of the questions (i.e. type of subscriber, access technology, and download speed).

Limited scope

Only Australian ISPs with more than 1,000 subscribers are surveyed in a limited scope cycle. These ISPs are sent a long form which asks all questions and covers all data items (i.e. type of subscriber, access technology, download speed, mobile handset internet subscribers, volume of data downloaded, location of subscriber, and other services offered).

This approach to the IAS scope provides frequent and timely data on key trends, while keeping resource usage and provider load to acceptable levels, particularly for small ISPs..


    Conceptual framework

The IAS was originally a quarterly census survey which collected details of internet activity services provided by all ISPs in Australia. The collection frequency was reduced from quarterly to biannual from September 2001. The collection continued to be collected every March and September until March 2005 when the collection was suspended for review.

Following the review, the collection frequency of a census collection reduced to annual from September 2006. However, a subset of the population (i.e. those ISPs with more than 10,000 active subscribers) were surveyed in the March cycle so as to continue to collect frequent data on key industry trends.

In response to the OECD's need for more timely data, another review was undertaken in August 2007. An outcome of this review was to change the collection reference cycles from March and September to June and December. This commenced in December 2007, when the December cycle became the census of ISPs and the June cycle the limited scope collection where data was obtained only from those ISPs with more than 10,000 subscribers.

A further change was made in June 2009, when the collection timing changed to a biannual collection, with both the June and December collections covering only ISPs with more than 1,000 subscribers. This approach to the IAS provides frequent and timely data on key trends while keeping resource usage and provider load to acceptable levels, particularly for smaller ISPs. The ABS last conducted a full census of all Australian ISPs, where those ISPs with 1,000 or less subscribers complete only a subset of questions, in respect of the three months ended 30 June 2013. The overall contribution of these smaller ISPs was less than 1% of all subscribers for the June 2013 IAS census.

Prior to December 2009, IAS excluded internet subscribers via mobile handsets. In December 2009, based on a change in OECD methodology, the IAS broadened the definition of mobile wireless subscribers to include mobile handset internet users. This was to facilitate international comparisons and to provide statistics to key users on a rapidly growing internet technology in Australia. These changes were made in consultation with key users and providers. Data on internet subscribers via mobile handsets were collected in December 2009 but were not published due to provider reporting issues. In June 2010, the IAS published its first set of statistics on numbers of internet subscribers via mobile handsets and volumes of data downloaded by these subscribers. Data was presented in experimental form as an appendix. Since December 2010, data has been included in the main body of the IAS release. So as to retain the original time series, mobile handset subscribers are published separately from other IAS data.

    Main outputs
ABS catalogue Internet Activity, Australia 8153.0 contains details of internet activity supplied by ISPs in Australia. The publication and the associated data cubes include information on internet subscribers, types of internet connections, sector of the internet users (i.e. business/household), volume of data downloaded, advertised download speed of the internet connection and location of the subscriber (by state or territory).

The frequency of the collection provides an indication of the growth in the number of Australian households and businesses obtaining access to the internet. In addition, the IAS indicates movements in the type of internet technology accessed in Australia.

ISPs are classified by size ranges according to the number of business and/or household subscribers they report in the IAS. The size categories have been determined in consultation with the ABS Economic Standards Section. The size classifications are:

Size of ISPDefinition of Size
no. of subscribers)
Very small1 - 100
Small101 - 1,000
Medium1,001 - 10,000
Large10,001 - 100,000
Very large100,001+

Other classifications used, including type of access technology and access speed ranges, have been developed in consultation with key providers and users of IAS data and are regularly reviewed to ensure they remain current.

    Other concepts (summary)

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions


    Frequency comments

    The IAS collection was ceased in March 2005, it was then reviewed in June 2006 with the collection frequency changing to biannual with data being collected in March and September quarters. In May 2007, another review was undertaken to switch collection cycles from March and September to June and December to meet the reporting requirements of the OECD. At this stage all ISPs (census) reported data in a December quarter, and only those ISPs with more than 10,000 active subscribers reported in a June quarter.

    As of June quarter 2009, subscribers with more than 1,000 active subscribers will report for every IAS cycle. Every three years a census of all IPSs will be run.


    Reference periodEvent
    June 2011Expanded the advertised download speed ranges to include 24Mbps to less than 100Mbps range, and 100Mbps or greater.
    December 2010Two cycles of mobile handset data published, enabling users to extract percentage movements.
    June 2010Triennial census conducted. Also, data on internet subscribers via mobile handsets published.
    December 2009Definition of mobile wireless broadened to include internet subscribers via mobile handsets.
    June 2009Limited scope changed to include ISPs with more than 1,000 subscribers.
    December 2007Collection changed to December (census) and June (limited scope) cycles.
    September 2006Collection recommenced as an annual collection following review and further development. However, for March cycles, a limited scope collection of ISPs with more than 10,000 subscribers was collected.
    June 2006Data collected only from ISPs with more than 10,000 subscribers operating in Australia. The limited scope collection was undertaken to measure growth in the industry prior to the September 2006 collection.
    March 2005Collection suspended pending review.
    September 2003Substantial redevelopment of the collection form including new and revised data items.
    September 2002Responsibility for collection transferred from Queensland to Western Australia.
    March 2002First biannual collection.
    September 2000First (quarterly) collection.


    Data availability comments

    03/06/2014 04:04 PM

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