Australia's largest telco has unveiled plans to cope with the nation's rapidly growing love affair with mobile internet usage.
Telstra expects its customers to consume as much mobile phone data in 2013 as they did in 2011 and 2012 combined - driven in part by smartphone, tablet and broadband dongle owners accessing social media and bandwidth-intensive movie sites.
The company says it will expand its fourth-generation (4G) mobile network, first launched in September 2011, to carry more data and to a greater geographical area.
It includes a new, lower (900MHz spectrum) wireless frequency to improve signal range, with a particular view to serve rural customers better.
There are also plans to trial 'long-term evolution' (LTE) 4G mobile network technology which should eventually lead to broadcast-quality video streaming.
The telco will also trial so-called 'small cell' heterogeneous networks designed to prevent data drop-outs in busy areas such as sports stadiums or CBDs.
"More than half of all Australians now own a smartphone - up from 32 per cent in 2010 - and we're increasingly using them not just for work but for entertainment, too," Telstra chief operations officer Brendon Riley said on Wednesday.
"More than 70 per cent of our customers use their smartphone to watch video content, with YouTube, music videos and movie trailers proving most popular."
There was also a "huge" increase in the number of people using smartphones to access search engines and social media sites.
All up, the average Australian spends an average of 12 hours per week accessing the internet using smartphones or tablet devices, Telstra says.
And it's not just younger people using smartphones.
Telstra commissioned a recent survey which found that 36 per cent of Australians aged 55 or over owned a smartphone in 2012.
That's up from 17 per cent in 2010.
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