Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Official: Number of Armenian Internet Users Reaches 1,5 Million

В Армении более 1,5 млн пользователей Интернета

According to the Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), 1,5 million internet users were registered in Armenia.

Member of Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) Samvel Arabajyan told a news conference on October 26th, that over 160 thousand broadband internet users were reported as of October 1 against 125 thousand in January 1.

Meanwhile, twofold decrease of dial-up internet users was observed over the first half-year of 2010, their current number comprising 21 thousand.

Hence, if the number of broadband and dial-up users in Armenia is 181 thousand, the remaining number, i.e. 1,3 million constitute the mobile users.

Last week, before the publication of PSRC figures, I had phone interviews with Armenian IT and telecommunications experts  Karen Vardanian, head of Armenian ICT Association and Samvel Martirosian, internet and media analyst. Both agreed, that the earlier figures (1,2 million and 1,4 million users) cited by official bodies is mostly made up of mobile internet users and should be handled with care, because the number of broadband users is still quite low, and it is debatable, whether mobile users can really be considered 'internet' users.

Karen Vardanian said there is close to or a little more than 100,000 broadband users in Armenia, while Samvel Martirosian noted, that broadband and dial-up users make up to 600,000, given the exponential growth of internet penetration this year. Experts, however, shared the view, that the number of Internet users has grown significantly in the past two years attributing it to the widespread take-up of 3G and WiMAX technology across the country.

Sadly, there is no reliable data available from third parties. International Telecommunications Union, for example, says internet penetration in Armenia in 2009 made 6.75%, which is an estimate based on their earlier studies. I don't think this is very reliable, and even if it were, it would roughly correspond to the 181,000 figure cited by PSRC for non-mobile users. However, discarding the mobile users is not fair, because this is the fastest growing sector in Armenia and the distinction bethin mobile and PC computing has become unbelievably thin these days.

PS: Last week I contacted PSRC several times with a request to confirm, that the figure about Armenia's internet penetration published by a website called Internet World Stats, according to which we have 1,396,550 users (or 47.1% of Armenia's population) is provided by them and is accurate. They said they'll make a public statement, and it appears, that today's news conference is that exact statement ;)

More Data, More Trouble

"Internet in Armenia - Summer 2010" report, produced by Armenia's leading rating portal Circle.am and Business24 business news website, has more interesting figures, which should be added into the equation.

According to the report, Circle.am registered 3 885 809 visits from Armenia in August 2010 and 4 167 395 visits in May 2010 (for a definition of the term visit - see Circle.am support). This would mean, that about 1,500 Armenian web resources get from 129 thousand to 138 thousand daily visits. 

Admittedly, the growth in recent years tends to bring users who are mostly engaged with international social networks, like Odnoklassniki.ru, Facebook or VoIP services like Skype. However, it seems strange, that only a tiny faction of 1,5 million Armenian internet users are accessing Armenian internet resources.

On a related note, Vahan Afanesyan, director of ID Media LLC, representative of  the most popular social network in Armenia - Odnoklassniki.ru, told me in an interview, that they are getting about 380 - 450 thousand unique visitors per-month, identified by user accounts / cookies / IPs, etc, and the number is growing. The number of Facebook users continues to grow too and showed 88,480 users last time I checked.

Can we conclude from all of the above, that even if the official figure of 1,5 million internet users in Armenia is valid, the active users make no more than 450 - 500 thousand? Somehow, that's the conclusion I am reaching and figures above show most of my 'thinking process'. What do you think?

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