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09 June, 2015
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Australians get mobile

By the Research and Analysis section

Man looking at phone

Using mobile devices for voice, messaging and internet access

Mobile phones and mobile internet devices are an increasingly important feature of Australia’s communications landscape. But to what extent have mobile phones become substitutes for fixed-line telephone and fixed-internet, and what is the influence of Australians’ age, location and living circumstances? The data in this researchacma snapshot provides some answers to those questions.

At December 2014, 12 per cent of adult Australians had neither a fixed-line telephone nor fixed internet in their homes, instead using mobile devices for voice, messaging and internet access. This is a small but growing group of the Australian adult population who are exclusively mobile in their communications at home.

As well, nearly one-third (29 per cent) of adult Australians were mobile-only phone users—with a mobile phone but no fixed-line telephone at home. The incidence of mobile-only phone use has increased substantially over a four-year period from 2.2 million at December 2010 to 5.2 million at December 2014.

A significant proportion of adult Australians (21 per cent) did not have a fixed internet connection at December 2014. These are mobile-only internet users, who rely on mobile devices—whether a mobile phone, tablet or mobile broadband connection—to access the internet.

Figure 1 illustrates at a conceptual level how these three categories interrelate.

Figure 1: Mobile-only categories

Figure 1: Mobile-only categories

Figure 1 (.csv) Mobile-only categories

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 and over.
Note: For full definition of 'mobile-only phone' see Figure 5, for full definition of 'exclusively mobile' and 'mobile-only internet' see
Research methodology.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

So what’s causing this increasing number of consumers to no longer rely on a fixed communications connection at their home, instead using mobile devices for voice, messaging and internet access? The increased functionality of mobile phones (particularly the increased take-up of smartphones), reduced costs, greater 3G and 4G broadband network penetration, and increased access to Wi-Fi networks are all contributing factors.[1]

Figure 2: A snapshot of mobile Australians

Figure 2: A snapshot of mobile Australians 
Figure 2 (.csv) A snapshot of mobile Australians

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 and over.
Note: For full definition of 'mobile-only phone' see Figure 5; for full definition of 'exclusively mobile' and 'mobile-only internet' see Research methodology. Data relates to percentages of people in each age group, location and living arrangement.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Exclusively mobile

At December 2014, 2.1 million adult Australians, or 12 per cent of the adult population, were exclusively mobile. These are adult Australians who do not have either a fixed-line telephone or fixed internet connection, instead using mobile devices for voice communications, messaging and internet access at home.

Since December 2013, the incidence of exclusively mobile users has increased from 10 per cent (or 1.8 million adult Australians), suggesting this group may continue to grow in size.

Who are exclusively mobile users?

The likelihood of a person being an exclusively mobile consumer is influenced by age, location and household structure (Figure 3). At December 2014:

  • Age—of those aged 25–34, 22 per cent were exclusively mobile; and of those aged 18–24, 16 per cent were exclusively mobile. Those aged 65 and over were least likely to be exclusively mobile (three per cent).
  • Location—Australians living outside the major cities were more likely to be exclusively mobile. Of those living in capital cities, 10 per cent were exclusively mobile, while 15 per cent of those from regional areas were exclusively mobile.
  • Current living arrangements—of those who live alone (11 per cent of adult Australians), 18 per cent were exclusively mobile. Of those who board (one per cent of adult Australians) and those who live in a share house (10 per cent of adult Australians), 15 per cent were exclusively mobile.

Figure 3: Growth and demographics of exclusively mobile users, December 2014

Figure 3: Growth and demographics of exclusively mobile users, December 2014

Figure 3 (.csv) Growth and demographics of exclusively mobile users, December 2014

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 and over.
Note: See Research methodology for a full definition of 'exclusively mobile'. Data relates to percentages of people in each age group, location and living arrangement.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

What do exclusively mobile users do online?

Figure 4 compares the internet activities undertaken by exclusively mobile users and general internet users. Interestingly, there is little difference between these two groups—the exclusively mobile group has a similar pattern of internet activity to general internet users.

Figure 4: Internet activities undertaken by exclusively mobile users and general internet users, December 2014

Figure 4: Internet activities undertaken by exclusively mobile users and general internet users, December 2014

Figure 4 (.csv) Internet activities undertaken by exclusively mobile users and general internet users, December 2014

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 and over who did one or more internet activities online in last four weeks.
Note: General internet users are adult Australians who conducted one or more internet activities online in the last four weeks.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

However, the increasing popularity of undertaking social media activities via a mobile device is highlighted by Facebook, which reportedly had 399 million users log in this way at June 2014—approximately 30 per cent of its active user base of 1.3 billion.[2] Mobile devices also enable consumers to undertake research on-the-go, with the Harvard Business Review reporting that 46 per cent of US shoppers exclusively use their mobile device to conduct pre-purchase research for local products and services.[3]

Mobile-only phone users

At December 2014, 5.2 million adult Australians (29 per cent) used a mobile phone and did not have a fixed-line telephone service in the home.

Figure 5 shows the growth in the number of mobile-only phone users from December 2010 to December 2014.

Figure 5: Growth of the mobile-only phone user, December 2010 to December 2014

Figure 5: Growth of the mobile-only phone user, December 2010 to December 2014

Figure 5 (.csv) Growth of the mobile-only phone user, December 2010 to December 2014

Base: People aged 18 years and over (‘000s).
Note: Mobile-only phone users are those who own/use a mobile phone, and who do not have a fixed-line telephone.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.
More detailed data tables (.csv) on mobile-only phone users.

Who are mobile-only phone users?

The likelihood of a person being a mobile-only phone user is influenced by age, household structure and, to a lesser extent, location (Figure 6).

At December 2014:

  • Age—over half (54 per cent) of those aged 25–34 and almost half (46 per cent) of those aged 18–24 were mobile-only phone users. As with exclusively mobile users, those aged 65 and over were least likely to be mobile-only phone users (nine per cent).
  • Location—28 per cent of those living in capital cities and 30 per cent of those living in regional areas were mobile-only phone users.
  • Current living arrangements—of those who live in a shared household, 54 per cent were mobile-only phone users, followed by those who board (41 per cent) and those who live alone (37 per cent).

Figure 6: Demographics of mobile-only phone users, December 2014

Figure 6: Demographics of mobile-only phone users, December 2014

Figure 6 (.csv) Demographics of mobile-only phone users, December 2014

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 and over. Percentages are within each category.
Note: Mobile-only phone users are those who own/use a mobile phone, and who do not have a fixed-line telephone. Data relates to percentages of people in each age group, location and living arrangement. Note only the top six living arrangements are included in this figure.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Homeless, but still connected

A recent project undertaken by the University of Sydney on behalf of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network found that 95 per cent of people experiencing homelessness had a mobile phone. Of this group, 77 per cent reported having a smartphone.[4] This research highlights that mobile phones, and particularly smartphones, allow homeless Australians to remain connected to the internet and use voice services.

How do mobile-only phone users differ from those with a fixed-line telephone?

While the number of mobile-only phone users in Australia is increasing, at December 2014 a large majority of adult Australians (70 per cent) still had a fixed-line telephone at home. A comparison of these two groups reveals significant demographic differences (Figure 7). Mobile-only phone users are more likely to be:

  • from a young single household (22 per cent of mobile-only phone users compared to four per cent of fixed-line telephone users) or a young couples household (16 per cent compared to five per cent)
  • aged 25–34 (37 per cent compared to 13 per cent)
  • renting a home (56 per cent compared to 21 per cent).

Figure 7: Mobile-only phone users vs. those with a fixed-line telephone (%), December 2014

Figure 7: Mobile-only phone users vs. those with a fixed-line telephone (%), December 2014

Figure 7 (.csv) Mobile-only phone users vs those with a fixed-line telephone (%), December 2014

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 and over. 
Note: Young single household refers to a household where the head of household is aged under 45, respondent is single and household has no children under 16. Young couples household refers to a household where the head of household is aged under 45, respondent is married/de facto and household has no children aged under 16.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Mobile-only internet users

A significant group of Australians does not have a fixed internet connection—instead using mobile devices or a mobile broadband connection to access the internet. At December 2014, there were 3.9 million adult Australians (21 per cent) who were mobile-only internet users. This is an increase of two percentage points from December 2013, when 19 per cent (3.5 million) adult Australians were mobile-only internet users.

Who are mobile-only internet users?

The likelihood of a person being a mobile-only internet user is influenced by age, location and household structure (Figure 8).

At December 2014:

  • Age—28 per cent of those aged 25–34 were mobile-only internet users. Those aged 65 and over were least likely to be mobile-only internet users (14 per cent).
  • Location—19 per cent of those living in capital cities and 26 per cent of those from regional areas were mobile-only internet users
  • Current living arrangements—living arrangements significantly influence how likely a person is to be a mobile-only internet user. Of those who board, 52 per cent were mobile-only for internet, followed by 27 per cent of those living alone.

Figure 8: Growth and demographics of mobile-only internet users, December 2014

Figure 8: Growth and demographics of mobile-only internet users, December 2014

Figure 8 (.csv) Growth and demographics of mobile-only internet users, December 2014

Base: Percentage of people aged 18 and over.
Note: see Research methodology for a full definition of mobile-only internet user. Data relates to percentages of people in each age group, location and living arrangement.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Where do mobile-only internet users go online?

The majority of the mobile-only internet group used the internet at home (73 per cent)—this figure is lower than the 97 per cent of those with a fixed internet connection accessing the internet at home.

Mobile-only internet users accessed the internet in a number of other places, including at work (49 per cent), at a friend’s place (22 per cent) or using a wireless hotspot (20 per cent). 

Research methodology

Data sources

The data contained in this report is primarily from Roy Morgan Research’s Single Source product, unless otherwise specified.

Roy Morgan Single Source

Roy Morgan Single Source product data covers data collected over a 12-month period from January to December 2014, unless otherwise specified.

The research samples were as follows:

  • January to December 2014, aged 18 and over—some 15,245
  • January to December 2013, aged 18 and over—some 17,761
  • January to December 2012, aged 18 and over—some 20,737
  • January to December 2011, aged 18 and over—some 18,131
  • January to December 2010, aged 18 and over—some 18,301.

Australian population

Total population estimates for Australian adults aged 18 and over are:

Definitions

Exclusively mobile relates to those who:

  • conducted one or more internet activities online via a mobile phone or tablet computer in the last four weeks, or have one or more mobile broadband connections
  • conducted one or more internet activities online in the last four weeks
  • do not have a home phone and do not have a fixed internet connection.

Mobile-only internet user relates to those who:

  • conducted one or more internet activities online via a mobile phone or tablet computer in the last four weeks, or have one or more mobile broadband connections
  • conducted one or more internet activities online in the last four weeks
  • do not have a fixed internet connection.

Other sources

Please refer to the endnotes for other information sources.

Data analysis

Results from data sets were analysed using descriptive analysis techniques, and by socioeconomic and demographic factors, to identify areas with significant patterns or differences.

Endnotes

[1] B Bajarin, ‘Why the Internet’s Next Billion Users Will Be Mobile-Only’, Time, 18 November 2014.

[2] J Ong, ‘Facebook now has 399 million users who login only from mobile devices’, The Next Web, 23 July 2014.

[3] K McGrane, ‘The Rise of the Mobile-Only User’, Harvard Business Review, 28 May 2013.

[4] J Humphry, Homeless and Connected: Mobile phones and the Internet in the lives of homeless Australians, University of Sydney on behalf of Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, August 2014.

Add your comments
  • Ric Vatner

    10/06/2015 5:01:11 PM

    Your research reports are fantastic and very helpful to people (like myself) who are in the industry. What a great resource. Thank you.
    Reply
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