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A Snapshot of World VDSL vs Cable vs Fibre Optic Broadband Growth

Monday, September 28th, 2015 (3:35 pm) - Score 3,748

Analyst firm IDATE recently updated its World FTTx Database, which provides for an interesting snapshot of the different fixed line technologies that countries around the world are using for “superfast broadband“. Suffice to say that Europe and the UK love hybrid-fibre (VDSL / FTTC).

According to IDATE, “superfast” technologies represented 37% of broadband access subscriptions at the end of 2014 and that’s up by 8 points on the previous year. Interestingly the leading technologies in all this are the true Gigabit capable fibre optic solutions, such as Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) and Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB); although the quality of FTTB can vary.

Overall FTTH/B represented 62% of all fibre based (FTTx) broadband subscriptions at the end of 2014, while FTTx/DOCSIS 3.0 (cable networks like Virgin Media) held a share of 27% and VDSL (FTTC) lagged behind on just 11% (unchanged from 2013).

As we’ve come to expect, the most expensive and fastest FTTH/B solutions are most dominant in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) countries, such as South Korea and Japan, as well as the Middle-East and Africa and Latin America (related deployments are often subsidised by the state).

By comparison cable (DOCSIS) networks are still dominant in North America, while Europe (except for Russia) largely prefers the cheaper and slower VDSL (FTTC) solution where incumbents like BTstill wish to optimize their copper networks.” Mind you the USA also has a fair bit of VDSL in its diet.

IDATE's 2015 superfast broadband growth and market share

Just to put that in some perspective with the United Kingdom. Ofcom reports that “superfast broadband” (they define this as 30Mbps+) services are now available to 83% of the UK (90% if you include those on slower NGA capable lines) and take-up has increased to 30% (up from 23.2% last year). Broadly speaking BT’s FTTC dominated “fibre broadband” network footprint can now reach 80% of the UK and Virgin Media’s cable network sits at about 44%, with both continuing to expand over the next 3-4 years.

In terms of subscribers, Virgin Media has around 4.6 million, while BTOpenreach’s FTTC holds roughly 4 million+ and then there’s something like 350,000+ on pure fibre optic FTTH/P connections. Overall though the old style of slow copper ADSL / ADSL2+ connections still hold some 63% of all UK subscribers, although those are steadily upgrading to FTTC and cable.

We suspect that, short of a significant change in the regulatory climate (i.e. Ofcom’s Strategic Review), the current trends will continue. For example, BT will maintain a focus on hybrid-fibre solutions like VDSL (FTTC), although they will soon start to put 10 million premises within reach of G.fast (a 500Mbps capable hybrid-fibre technology).

Meanwhile Virgin Media will continue to keep their cable network upgraded and able to deliver similar ultrafast speeds, although it only takes them months and not years to deploy such upgrades to their existing base.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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1 Response
  1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

    It’s difficult to imagine what regulatory change Ofcom might come up with that will change the broadband landscape in the UK in terms of technology. The great majority of the country will continue to be serviced by hybrid fibre/copper services. That is, of course, fibre/coax for VM and fibre/twisted pair for BT/Openreach with a smattering of FTTP and wireless. Yes, there will be a gradual move to deeper fibre penetration in in latter and some increase in FTTP, but it will be slow.

    The reason is simple, and it’s economics and speed of roll-out. A full FTTP network would require a massive commitment in money and resources (and the latter is strictly limited) and it’s difficult to see what market restructuring would allow for it. Given that OR (separated or not) will always be under enormous regulatory pressure to keep wholesale prices down (and it will also be kept down by competition in VM areas), then it’s difficult to see where a huge amount of new investment and the revenue streams to cover it will come from.

    One thing is for sure, the government isn’t suddenly going to invest a huge pot of money (which would also hit regulatory problems).

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