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Fibre to the fore as OECD countries add 21 million fixed broadband connections

The future is arriving fast in the broadband industry in developed nations, as OECD research finds fibre deployment is gaining traction at the expense of traditional copper-wire connections in a post-Covid environment

Showing just how broadband access is evolving rapidly in developing countries, particularly due to the need to move work and home life activities online during the Covid-19 pandemic, research from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has revealed that high-speed fibre internet subscriptions surpassed copper-wire DSL connections across OECD countries for the first time in 2020.

The latest update to the OECD’s broadband portal showed that across the OECD’s 38 member countries, a record 21.15 million new fixed broadband connections (including fibre, DSL, cable and others) were added in the year to end-December 2020. While cable remains the predominant fixed broadband technology, accounting for 34% of subscriptions across OECD countries with a rise of 5.6% in 2020, fibre is steadily replacing DSL subscriptions, which have dropped by 10% over the past two years.

In addition, fibre now exceeds 30% of fixed broadband subscriptions, up from 12% a decade ago, and is by far the fastest growing broadband technology, with subscriptions up 14% in 2020 from 2019. This outpaced substantially the 5% rise in overall fixed broadband subscriptions.

Looking at individual hotspots for fibre growth, the study highlighted that Austria, Belgium, Chile, Ireland, Israel and the UK all increased their fibre connections by more than 50% in 2020.

The OECD added that in more and more countries, the majority of broadband connections are now fibre, with the share of fibre in total broadband above 50% in Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway and Portugal, and exceeding 70% in Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain and Sweden.

Overall, fixed broadband subscriptions in OECD countries totalled 454 million as of December 2020, up from 433 million a year earlier, and averaged 33.2 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Switzerland led the pack with a penetration rate of 47.5 subscriptions per 100 people, followed by France (45.6%), Norway (44.6%) and Denmark (44.2%).

Finland remains the OECD champion for data consumption at a total of 31 Gigabytes (GB) per subscriber per month, followed by Austria (25.8 GB), Latvia (23 GB), Lithuania (20.5 GB), Iceland (16.7 GB), Estonia (16 GB), Chile (12.8 GB) and Sweden (12 GB).

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Eight countries – Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Spain and Turkey – saw significant growth of 45% or more in data usage over 2020. On average, users downloaded 7.5 GB of data per month per subscription in 2020, up from 5.8 GB in 2019 in those countries for which data was available.

Mobile data usage soared by more than 30% on average in 2020 across the 35 OECD countries for which data were available, with 29 countries showing an increase of over 20%.

Mobile broadband subscriptions grew by almost 3% in 2020 across OECD countries. Mobile internet penetration is highest in Japan, Estonia and Finland, with subscriptions per 100 inhabitants at 185%, 165% and 156% respectively.

Looking at on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, the OECD data showed that Sweden and Austria remained the leaders in the number of M2M SIM cards per 100 inhabitants. Sweden has 163 M2M SIM cards per 100 inhabitants – a much higher level than most OECD countries that provided data – due in part to the use of these SIM cards in other countries by a Swedish operator.

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