SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australians downloaded data on the internet at a breakneck pace last year even as the total number of subscribers neared saturation point, a trend that is only likely to grow as the country's broadband network is upgraded.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics out on Tuesday showed the amount of data downloaded jumped by a third in the three months to December, compared to the three months to June. Downloads amounted to 550,000 terabytes of data in the final quarter of 2012, up no less than 60 percent from the same period in 2011.
The vast bulk of data was downloaded on fixed lines, where traffic grew 63 percent for the year.
The number of internet subscribers rose by a more modest 5 percent over 2012 to reach 12.2 million. Some 98 percent of all connections were broadband, with 49 percent being mobile wireless.
The fastest growth in connections came in fibre, which climbed to 91,000 in December, from 37,000 a year earlier. That reflects the Labor government's massive $39 billion National Broadband Project to roll out fibre across the country.
The furious pace of data downloading is a major reason much of the telecoms industry favours the government's fibre to the home solution for broadband.
Australians' love affair with smart phones saw data downloaded by mobile handset increase by 38 percent in the quarter, and by 174 percent for the year.
The number of mobile handsets with an internet subscription climbed almost 15 percent over 2012 to reach 17.4 million.
Reporting by Wayne Cole