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Using Innovation, Science and Technology Statistics
Internet Activity Survey Glossary

Internet Activity Glossary

Active subscribers
Subscribers who have accessed the Internet or paid for access to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider in the three months during the quarterly reference period. ABS subscriber statistics measure the number of 'subscriber lines' rather than the number of 'users', with each user potentially having multiple subscriber lines/internet connections (see Subscriber).

A dial-up telecommunications network operated by a carrier to provide services to the public.

Abbreviation for binary digit describing the smallest unit of information handled by a computer. One bit expresses a 1 or 0 in a binary numeral, or a true or false logical condition. See also byte.


Defined by the ABS as an 'always on' internet connection with an access speed of 256kbps or higher. The ABS separates broadband into fixed-line/wired (for example, DSL, cable and fibre) and wireless (for example, satellite, fixed and mobile wireless). At present, the ABS does not count broadband internet connections via a mobile handset in the main subscriber numbers, but instead publishes handset data as a separate series of data.

Abbreviation for binary term. A unit of data that today almost always consists of 8 bits. A byte can represent a single character, such as a letter, a digit, or a punctuation mark. See also kilobit and kilobyte.


Broadband internet technology that uses the cable television (CATV) infrastructure. The connection uses a coaxial cable or Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) and is typically used as the 'last mile' or 'access network' technology. Cable includes Fibre to the Node (FTTN) and Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) where a coaxial cable has been used for the 'last mile'.

Corporate, business and government subscribers
All businesses, corporations and non-profit and government organisations which obtain access to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Many ISPs do not keep accurate records on the type of subscriber so there is an element of estimation in this data.

Data downloaded
The volume of data downloaded from the Internet by subscribers in the three months of the quarterly reference period. Volume of data downloaded is published by the ABS in Terrabytes and excludes data uploaded. The ABS collects data downloaded split by dial-up, fixed-line broadband, wireless broadband and via a mobile handset.

A cellular modem used to connect to the Internet that can either be embedded inside a laptop, or other 3G capable appliance, or external to it.

Dedicated data subscriptions
An internet subscription over a mobile network which is purchased separately from voice services, either as a stand-alone or as an add-on package to voice services. The ABS separates internet subscriptions via mobile handsets into dedicated data subscriptions and all other active subscriptions. Included in this category are bolt-on or add-on data packages over a mobile handset. Excluded from this category are mobile phone caps which include a data allowance but where no data has specifically been purchased. Prepaid services are only included if there is a recurring data subscription fee.

Connection to the Internet via a dial-up modem and software utilising the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

Dial-up subscribers

Subscribers who connect to the Internet via a dial-up modem and software utilising the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
A family of technologies that provides digital data transmission over the local telephone network. This suite of technologies, now referred to as xDSL, includes Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL, ADSL2, ADSL2+) and Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL), etc. DSL is excluded from ABS counts where it is not used for internet connectivity (e.g. leased lines).

Download speeds
For the purposes of the Internet Activity Survey, download speed is equivalent to the advertised or theoretical maximum speed of data transfer rate. This can differ considerably from actual speeds experienced by internet users, which can very based on factors such as the modem, the distance from the node or exchange and the level of internet traffic.


Broadband network architecture that uses optical fibre for the 'last mile' or 'access network' technology. There are a number of types of fibre deployments including Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), Fibre to the Home (FTTH) and Fibre to the Building (FTTB). Fibre used only for backhaul is excluded from counts of Fibre internet connections (see Cable).

Fixed wireless broadband

A terrestrial point-to-point microwave or radio link, generally building to building or tower to building, which allows subscribers within the receiving building to access the Internet. Sender and receiver must generally be within line-of-sight and no more than 22 kilometres apart, although newer generations of this technology have overcome some of these obstacles. Examples of technologies included as fixed wireless are fixed WiMax, LMDS and MMDS.

Gigabyte (GB)

A data unit of one billion bytes, sometimes interpreted as 1,024 megabytes.

Household subscribers

Households and private individuals who subscribe to the Internet via an Internet Service Provider. This may include some home based businesses. Many ISPs do not keep accurate records on the type of subscriber so there is an element of estimation in this data.

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)
ISDN is a digital access technique for both voice and data. It is a digital alternative to an analog technology and carries data or voltages consisting of discrete steps or levels, as opposed to continuously variable analog data. ISDN enables digital transmission over the PSTN.

A world-wide public system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet Protocol (IP). Organisations and individuals can connect their computers to this network and exchange information across a country and/or across the world. The Internet provides access to a number of communication services including the World Wide Web and Voice over IP (VOIP), and carries email, news, entertainment and data files. For ABS purposes, the Internet connection counted must provide the user with access to the World Wide Web.

Internet access

Availability of lines, points, ports, and modems to subscribers to access the Internet.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Resident Australian individuals or businesses offering internet access services to customers. So as to avoid double counting of subscribers, the ABS collects data from retail ISPs and excludes all wholesale activities (i.e. the ABS only counts the number of subscriptions to the end user).

Kilobits per second (kbps)

A measure of data transfer rate. A unit of data transfer that equates to 1000 bits per second.

Kilobit (kb)
A data unit of 1,024 bits and generally abbreviated as kb or kbit.

Kilobyte (KB)

A data unit of 1,024 bytes and generally abbreviated as KB or Kbyte.

Megabit (Mb)

A data unit of 1,048,576 bits, sometimes interpreted as 1 million bits.

Megabyte (MB)

A data unit of 1,048,576 bytes, sometimes interpreted as 1 million bytes.

Mobile handset
A hand held, electronic, mobile device used to transmit or communicate data, images or voice over a cellular network. This includes smartphones such as the iPhone, blackberry and android, but excludes tablets such as the iPad. Currently, the ABS counts internet subscribers via a mobile handset separately from other internet subscribers. Mobile handset data is therefore not included in state or speed subscriber counts.

Mobile wireless broadband
An internet connection which provides short range, high data rate connections between mobile data devices and access points connected to a network. Examples include mobile WiMax and 3G accessed through a datacard, USB modem, tablet SIM card or any other device used to connect a computer to a cellular network (excluding a mobile handset). Mobile wireless internet subscriptions via a mobile handset are currently excluded from this category for the purposes of the Internet Activity Survey.

Non dial-up connections
Permanent and 'always on' connections to the Internet via a variety of technologies including Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL), fibre, cable, fixed and mobile wireless and satellite.

Other active subscriptions

For ABS purposes, internet subscriptions via mobile handsets are separated into dedicated data subscriptions (see above) and all other active subscriptions. Included in this category are all other internet subscriptions via a mobile handset, where a data package has not been specifically purchased, and where the Internet has been accessed in the three months of the reference period. This includes where the Internet has been accessed via a cap inclusive of data, and also casual or incidental browsing. Prepaid mobile handset subscriptions require active internet use to be counted.

Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS)
A basic form of residential and small business service connection to the telephone network.

Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)
The world's public circuit-switched telephone network. This network was once only a fixed-line analog system but is now primarily digital and includes fixed and mobile telephones. PSTN can also be referred to as Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).

Satellite internet access

Internet access provided through a satellite. The satellite is an object placed into orbit by humans that acts as a microwave relay station, receiving signals from a ground-based station, amplifying them and retransmitting them on a different frequency to another ground-based station. A clear line of site is generally required between the satellite and the base stations.


SPAM is defined as unsolicited electronic messages, regardless of its content.


An Internet Service Provider (ISP) customer to whom internet access is provided. Included are paying and non paying customers, dial-up subscribers and those with 'always on' (non dial-up) connections. Excluded are customers who purchase other services from an ISP, such as web hosting, but do not obtain internet access. A subscriber differs from a user or person/business as one user may have multiple accounts with a single ISP, or accounts with more than one ISP. Conversely, there are single ISP subscriber accounts that provide internet access for multiple people/organisations (e.g. universities).

Terabyte (TB)
A data unit of one thousand billion bytes, sometimes interpreted as 1,024 gigabytes.

USB modem

Universal Service Bus (USB) is a serial bus standard to interface devices. A USB modem is a cellular modem that can be used with wireless networks.

WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a fourth generation wireless technology that provides broadband connections to the Internet over distances of up to 50 kilometres. WiMAX can either utilise mobile or fixed wireless technologies.

Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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