Broadband Forum Reports Robust Global Subscription Growth

By Peter Bernstein April 16, 2013

Despite continued global economic uncertainty, and in the face of questions in various parts of the world over funding sources to fuel network expansions, the Broadband Forum is out with its latest figures on broadband and IPTV subscription growth – and surprisingly there is good news to report. 

The highlights of the latest figures produced for the Broadband Forum by Point Topic included:  

  • 643,770,042 broadband subscribers around the world by year-end 2012
  • Fiber deployments grew faster than all other access technologies
  • IPTV continues to gain market share, passing 75 million subscriber mark

The numbers also point to the facts that the surge in subscriptions is being driven by fiber deployments, but particularly by Fiber-to-the X (FTTx)/VDSL2 networks, with an 8.6-percent annual growth. Maybe the most impressive number is that 50 million new users around the globe have subscribed to broadband in the past year alone.  

Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum, stated that, "These are promising figures as they highlight the ongoing strength of the broadband market…We are increasingly witnessing a shift in technology, particularly to fiber, as consumer habits evolve and the demand for higher bandwidths increases."

The emergence of FTTx as a preferred solution is reflected in its growth rates relative to other solutions. Oliver Johnson, CEO at Point Topic, said, "Demand for bandwidth can be satisfied by FTTx solutions, particularly in combination with vectoring, bonding and other incremental VDSL2 improvements so operators will continue to maximize the lifetime of their existing assets."

The numbers tell a positive subscription tale

As mentioned, the numbers paint a positive picture in terms of overall growth and the impact fiber is having, in conjunction with VDSL technologies for the last mile or few feet.


Source: Point Topic 2012 Q4 2012

The pie chart shows that while end-to-end fiber deployments remain a small percentage of total broadband connections, hybrid solutions along with rapid growth are gaining significant share.


Source: Point Topic 2012 Q4 2012

The country view is interesting because it shows how China and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are investing in broadband as part of the acceleration of their economics. And even in mature markets such as the U.S. and France, there is sustained growth.

IPTV as a driver

Finally, while IPTV remains a relatively tiny market compared to overall broadband, here too the growth is significant. As noted in the report, over 75 million users are now subscribing to IPTV. It grew in the final 2012 quarter, adding 3.6 million customers at a percentage growth of 4.97 percent. This was down slightly from the 5.04 percent in the previous quarter.

However, the trend is what’s encouraging, especially in the fact that 11.8 percent of all broadband subscribers now take an IPTV service. This is up from 10.4 percent year-end 2011.

The reason the Broadband Forum watches this closely is the acknowledged impact the desire of consumers for IPTV has on superfast broadband deployments.  As the report details, China, France and the U.S. hold the top three spots in IPTV, but there has been strong percentage growth in the emerging markets of Korea (32 percent), Russia (86 percent) and the Netherlands (45 percent).

This growth in broadband and IPTV appears to be sustainable even in difficult times. What is also likely driving its recent spate of industry restructuring is Dish Network’s offer to purchase Sprint in the U.S., and the closing of Liberty Global’s multibillion dollar acquisition of Virgin Media in the U.K.

The demand is clearly there, and who can get to market with broadband, by whatever means, has become a matter of manifest destiny.




Edited by Braden Becker
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