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Copper Falls as Ultrafast Fibre Boosts Global Broadband Users to 823Million

Thursday, January 26th, 2017 (1:05 am) - Score 448
router with fibre optic cables on top

A new report from Point Topic has revealed that the total number of world fixed broadband subscribers grew by 2.25% during Q3 2016 and now stands at 822.7 Million (up from 745m one year earlier), with the majority of growth being fuelled by pure fibre optic (FTTH/P) connectivity.

Fixed broadband markets are highly saturated in the developed economies (e.g. USA, UK, Germany etc.) where growth rates are stagnating and in some cases even diminishing, although it’s a very different story for East Asia that now accounts for a staggering 70% of all net adds in Q3 and a big part of that is due to China. By comparison the whole of Europe accounted for about 18.26% of growth and North America scored 4.51%.

global_fixed_broadband_subscriber_top_10_countries_q3_2016

As usual there’s also a huge regional difference in the types of broadband technology being used, with the Americas still being dominated by cable (DOCSIS) networks and Africa being almost totally addicted to older copper lines (ADSL etc.).

Copper broadband lines still hold quite a big of sway in Europe and other parts of the world too, although they’re continuing to see a sharp decline as users gradually upgrade to faster fibre optic (FTTH/P) and hybrid fibre (FTTC / FTTx / VDSL) based solutions. Meanwhile Asia positively loves pure fibre optic lines.

global_fixed_broadband_market_share_by_technology_2016_q3

Over the past year the number of copper broadband lines globally has fallen by 11.6%, while ultrafast FTTH/P services have increased by 76.9% (compared with an increase of 57% between Q3 2014 – Q3 2015). This is hardly a surprise because many countries around the world have begun to roll-out pure fibre optic connectivity, which over the longer term should completely replace copper lines.

However it’s worth pointing out that the global figures are being skewed by the influence of China. In the six months to the end of September 2016, China added nearly 41 million FTTH connections, which constituted 89% of all FTTH net additions globally over the same period.

global_fixed_broadband_subscriber_growth_by_technology_2016_q3

Our eagle eyed readers will no doubt have noticed that hybrid-fibre (FTTC / FTTx / VDSL) connections have also gone into decline (-8.4% vs +14.4% in the prior year), which is odd since they’re actually growing in many parts of the world (e.g. UK). Once again the culprit is China, which has actually been replacing quite a lot of FTTx lines with FTTH and you don’t see that in too many other markets.. yet.

Elsewhere Fixed Wireless networks are increasingly giving way to 4G LTE based Mobile Broadband services, which is offered as one way to get broadband at home in several countries and regions (e.g. Scandinavia and Eastern Europe).

We also note that the annual growth in Satellite has slid from +10% between Q3 2014 to Q3 2015 and is now just +4.6% (past year), which might be because its viable market has shrunk as rival fixed line networks improve their coverage (i.e. fewer digitally disadvantaged areas to target).

One other stand out feature is that Cable (DOCSIS) based broadband technologies (e.g. Virgin Media) continue to maintain a virtually unchanged level of annual growth at 6.8%, which is partly because the technology has been quite effective at cheaply and quickly rolling out ultrafast broadband upgrades. We see no reason why this won’t continue once DOCSIS 3.1 starts to make a dent towards 2017.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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