Working paper

The research examines the affordability of communications services with a focus on households in the lowest income decile, which have an average income of around $22,000 a year. Households in this income decile tend to spend more, as a share of income, on communications services.

This paper estimates the monthly basic data needs for low income individuals to access employment, education and government services, as well as social interaction.

The basic data needs of those Australians in the lowest income decile are estimated to range from around 2 GB to 20 GB per month. This would enable an individual to undertake online activities including web browsing, social media, accessing government services and some video streaming.

The paper uses prepaid mobile services to assess the market options to reflect personal data use and accessibility for low income individuals. Based on these data requirements, the telecommunications market is offering a range of services to meet the basic data needs of low income individuals.

The paper also finds that mobile data consumption has been growing at a faster rate than fixed-line due to the rapid uptake of smartphones.

Overall, the paper finds that communications affordability has improved as prices have fallen for mobile and fixed-line plans and data inclusions increased—including for prepaid services. It updates and extends 2017 BCAR analysis on communications affordability.

The paper uses reliable and consistent information to examine the basic data needs of low income households and overall affordability trends, which predates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government and telecommunications industry have taken a number of steps aimed at keeping people connected during the pandemic.

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