SCMP Thursday, February 15, 2001

Surfers spend less time online


Local Internet users spend about 20 per cent less time surfing on dial-up connections than they did six months ago, according to figures showing the first major drop in traffic since records began.
Industry observers said yesterday the decline - which followed two years of rapid growth and a tripling of time spent online - could mean the novelty of the Internet was wearing off for new home users. Time spent on the Net has dropped to 1.1 billion minutes a month for people with dial-up connections, down from a peak last August of 1.44 billion, data from the Office of the Telecommunications Authority shows.
About two million households, or 85 per cent of home Internet users, have dial-up connections.
Analysts said the popularity of broadband access - which allows users to surf the Net far more quickly than on a dial-up line - was a major factor in the drop in dial-up traffic, but that the Internet could be losing some of its appeal. "That's always a possibility, because the number of users keeps on rising," Ofta senior assistant secretary Au Man-ho said.
She said some operators claimed a lot of traffic had migrated to broadband. "But right now, the number of broadband customers is still very small - we have about 350,000 broadband users . . . The number of dial-up users has not decreased."
The number of broadband users is climbing, but there are no figures available on how much time they spend online.