Data from Australia’s consumer watchdog shows Australian mobile phone users are spending less time on phone calls and more time in messaging applications. Cheaper unlimited broadband plans have also helped boost the total amount of data downloaded by 47 per cent over the year.

It is the first time traditional voice service use dropped year-on-year, according to the ACCC, which this week released its annual communications report.

While phone carriers are increasingly offering unlimited call packages to Australian consumers – it is now included in around 95 per cent of plans – less of them are taking advantage of it. Carriers reported a 3 billion minute decline in mobile voice minutes in the ACCC’s Communications Market Report for 2018-19.

The regulator’s report says the trend indicates an increasing preference for communication apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage, all of which also have their own call voice call features.

51 per cent of Australians now rely on mobile only for their voice calls. But the number jumps to 79 per cent for 25 – 34 year olds.

Data deluge

Australian consumers are, however, taking advantage of cheaper data. The median price per GB has fallen to just over $2. Three years ago it was over $7. While broadband providers now offer unlimited data in over half their plans.

Unlimited data fixed broadband plans have increased from 6 per cent in 2014-15 to 57 per cent in 2018-19, according to the ACCC.

In the June 2019 quarter, Australians downloaded nearly 6 million terabytes, a significant year on year jump, with 88 per cent of downloads occurring through fixed broadband services and the remaining 12 per cent via mobile.

Consumers are taking advantage of the increasing amount of unlimited data plans offered by providers, the ACCC says, to consume over the top media through services like Netflix, Stan and Kayo Sports.

“A jump to more than half of all plans offering unlimited plans in just five years really is a sign of the times,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims.

“The quality of Australia’s communications services is also improving, allowing more of us to use and enjoy data-heavy activities like streaming in high definition.

“This trend is likely to be further boosted during 2019-20 with the entry of new competitors such as Disney+ and Apple TV+.”

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