Why Australia has more mobile subscriptions than people

New data suggests that Australia - population 22 million - will soon have 28 million subscriptions to mobile phones, mobile broadband and other mobile devices. How many are in your home or office?

 For every Australian, there is now more than one account with a mobile network, according to new data from telecommunications analyst Paul Budde.

The nation will have 28 million subscribers by the end of 2011, Budde says ,with the reason for the greater than 1:1 ratio being "... a rise in the number of people using two mobile subscriptions – one for personal use and one for business use." Another reason for the high subscriber numbers is that more and more people will "migrate to a mobile-only environment."

Yet even with around 1.25 mobile subscriptions per Australian, growth in new subscriptions has slowed from double digit rates in 2009 to eight percent. Which is of course a more-than-decent number when overall economic growth is around three percent.

But that growth may be problematic: lots of new subscribers are buying smartphones and other data-intensive devices. Their proliferation strains carriers' networks, necessitating new investments in capacity to ensure subscribers get a good experience.

Budde says Telstra is still the market leader, with more than eleven million subscribers; Optus has around nine million subscribers; and VHA (the combined Vodafone and Three) still has roughly seven million subscribers. Collectively the three, and the mobile virtual network operators who resell their networks, collect $17 billion in revenue.

Budde also says "The mobile retail market is rapidly becoming more significant as the use of mobile devices extends well and truly beyond traditional voice and SMS. Retailers are fast becoming the focal point for interaction with customers, many of whom have individual needs which require a higher level of customer service. Many customers are now also using social networking to make contact with stores."

"The non-specialist retail market such as food stores and petrol stations are catering for the prepaid market, while the specialised retailers are catering for a rapidly increasing postpaid market. Postpaid subscribers have been growing, while the prepaid market has been shrinking with a greater uptake of smartphones and mobile broadband plans."

How many mobile subscriptions do you have? In your Editor's household we have:

  • My phone
  • My wife's phone
  • An iPad
  • A wireless broadband dongle
  • A pre-paid mobile phone for our son, who texts us so we know he made it to school safely
  • A pre-paid mobile our son lost, but the credit is still valid so we suspect the carrier still counts it as a live account

That gets us to six accounts for four people, or 1.5 for each of us! How does your household look?

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