BUSINESSDESK: Smartphones users are in the majority for the first time in New Zealand, with more than half of all Kiwis using their mobile phone to access the internet, government figures show.
The number of mobile broadband subscribers rose 34% to 2.5 million in the 12 months ended June 30 compared to a year earlier, the annual internet service provider survey reveals. New Zealand's population is 4.41 million.
"Our experience would absolutely reflect these findings," Telecom chief marketing officer Jason Paris told BusinessDesk. "We are seeing a steady increase in mobile broadband usage and we expect this trend to continue.
"The excitement generated by the launch of new smart phones with new features is evidence of how important these devices are to people," he says. "Naturally, the greater use of smartphones means more signalling and data usage."
The survey found Kiwis now are chasing higher data caps, with the average user consuming 7 gigabytes more data a month than a year ago. The total number of users with a data cap of 50GB or more surged 789% to 256,800 in 2012, while users with no data cap rose 275% to 82,500.
"Using the internet to shop, look for places to visit or even watch their favourite TV shows is becoming a part of everyday life for Kiwis," information and communication technology statistics manager Hamish Hill says.
"Internet service providers have increased their data caps so there is more choice and flexibility when surfing the web on fixed broadband connections."
The average Kiwi uses an estimated 16GB of data a month. That is equivalent to streaming about 142 episodes of Shortland Street, Mr Hill says.
New Zealanders with a data cap of 20GB to 50GB rose 67% to 668,600. Those using less than 20GB fell about 40% to 600,000.
"We've seen data usage on our network roughly quadruple over the past two years," Vodafone external communication manager Emma Carter says.
"As more and more people move to smartphones – as almost 50% of our customers are now doing – they start using the internet on the move for everything from maps to Facebook to researching products and services.
"As networks get faster, it encourages more people to do more online, on the move," she says.
Broadband customers climbed 11% to 1.6 million, while fibre-optic subscribers increased 46% to 5400. Digital subscriber lines remain the most popular connection type, up 9% to 1.1 million.
Two Degrees Mobile, the newest entrant in the mobile phone market, has continued to grab sales from bigger rivals Telecom and Vodafone New Zealand, boosting its market share to 1 million customers, or 21% of the country's mobile market, in August.
Vodafone is still the biggest local carrier with 2.37 million customers.
Shares in Telecom, New Zealand's biggest listed company, rose 2.2% to $2.375. The stock has gained about 14% this year.