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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Status Report: State of the Broadband Nation


According to the latest market study by Point Topic, in the third week of July 2010 the world passed a significant broadband milestone -- half a billion lines are now installed in households and businesses globally.

It's only taken 11 years to get to half a billion fixed broadband lines. It has brought the world closer together. Improved health and education standards and ushered in a new era of research, data-sharing and cooperation.

"Finland recently took a significant step, by making broadband a legal right for its citizens, towards an entirely interconnected world. The benefits the global population will reap from the continued spread of broadband and the services and opportunities presented to them are legion. The next 11 years are set to be as exciting as the last with at least another half billion broadband lines due to be added," says Oliver Johnson, CEO of Point Topic.

At the end of June 2010 there were 498 million broadband lines and the internet service providers are collectively adding just over 1 million new lines a week at the moment.

The U.S. was the birthplace of the internet. Established in the 1960's the forerunner of today's network, Arpanet, was created to connect computer terminals and applied early packet switching technology.

"The first message over the new network was sent just two months before man first landed on the moon," says Johnson. The network grew quickly and by the early 80's was in widespread use amongst academics, researchers and in government.

Point Topic started counting broadband fixed lines in 1998, by the end of the 20th century there were 1.3 million lines in use mostly in the U.S. and Canada and dominated by broadband delivered over co-axial cable.

Driven by geographic challenges, the Cable TV companies were laying cable throughout America from shortly after World War II. By the 90's when cable modems started to appear there was an existing high speed network in place.

"The advent of Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Lines (ADSL) in the 90's was the starting gun for mass deployment and uptake worldwide -- as it made use of the almost ubiquitous telephone network," says Johnson.

This meant broadband growth could now be a reality almost everywhere in the world.

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"The U.S. was overtaken by China as the leading broadband market, in terms of subscriber numbers, at the end of 2007 and this marks the shift from the first phase of broadband deployment dominated by Europe and North America to the developing world -- and the next stage in the story of broadband," says Johnson.

The key markets in growth terms in the next decade will be countries with relatively low broadband penetration and very large populations.

It's not a major surprise that China is top of the list. A quarter of the world's fixed broadband lines are already there and despite the income disparities we expect penetration to keep growing. Major growth will also be seen in India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines to name only the leading nations.

"It is difficult to avoid hyperbole. The internet and broadband have transformed the world and will continue to do so. By 2020 there will be fixed and mobile broadband available to almost the entire population of the planet and we've only just started to realize the benefits the first wave of deployment has brought. An exciting time to be alive," concludes Johnson.

The Ongoing Storyline >> Broadband Nation Update