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Fibre to the fore for fixed broadband in Q2

Though varied across different markets, overall quarterly global fixed broadband growth returns to normal at the end of the second quarter of 2021

While nobody in any industry could cogently argue that things are back to what they were before the Covid outbreak, the fixed broadband market, says analyst Point Topic, saw growth returning to normal at the end of the second quarter of 2021.

The study was based on Point Topic’s Global Broadband Statistics service that analyses datasets covering fixed broadband subscribers in 131 countries at country, operator and technology level. The top-line finding was that at the end of Q2 2021, the number of global fixed broadband connections grew by 1.7% and stood at 1.22 billion. The growth rate was almost identical to that in Q2 2020 and Q2 2019, as broadband markets continued to return to normality after the impact of the pandemic.

Fixed broadband subscribers grew in 88% of the countries covered in this report and all but two of the largest 20 broadband markets saw growth this quarter, though in 15 of these markets it was slower than in Q1 2021. Yet the extent of growth varied across different markets, with 16 countries reporting a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions in Q2 2021, up from 15 in Q1 2021.

The decline was mainly either in saturated broadband markets such as Spain and Israel or those where mobile connections are the preferred way of getting online. In Q2 2021, the growth rate was slower in all regions, compared with the previous quarter, which was in line with seasonal trends. The differences were especially notable in Africa, Europe and Asia Other.

Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections in total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow and stood at 57.3%. Between Q1 2021 and Q2 2021, the share of FTTH connections in total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow – it went up by 0.8% and stood at 57.3%. Cable broadband connections followed, with an 18.2% share, down by 0.2%. Copper-based (ADSL) and FTTx connections had 11.6 and 12.9% shares respectively. The three latter technologies lost their market share to FTTH in Q2 2021 as consumers migrated to more advanced broadband technologies.

The highest fibre broadband growth rates were largely in developing markets, with the UK, France, Italy and Germany also reporting quarterly growth at significant rates. China surpassed 500 million fixed broadband connections and is approaching the same milestone in terms of 5G connections.

In terms of FTTH net additions, China led with 12.3 million, while Brazil added more than a million and France almost a million fibre broadband subscriptions. In terms of annual changes, between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021, the number of copper lines globally fell by 11.1%, while FTTH connections increased by 13.7%. Wireless, mostly FWA, connections also saw significant growth as these technologies are increasingly used to cover so-called broadband “white spots”.

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Out of the largest 20 broadband markets, all except Russian Federation and Spain saw growth this quarter. In 15 of the 20 markets, the growth was slower than in Q1 2021, which is not unexpected given seasonal fluctuations. In Spain, the three largest operators, Telefónica, Orange and Vodafone, reported subscriber decline in Q2 2021, while in Russia, Rostelecom lost subscribers for the first time. In both cases, FTTH subscriber growth was not sufficient to compensate for DSL subscriber churn.

Drilling deeper into the study on a regional basis, Point Topic found East Asia’s share of net additions of fixed broadband subscribers increased slightly to 63% at the end of Q2 2021.

East Asia retained the largest regional market share of net additions as well at 48%. Compared with Q1 2021, other regions except Asia Other and Africa saw their market shares decline slightly, but the changes were insignificant.

The survey highlighted that Oceania had maintained the lowest market share of global fixed broadband subscribers at 0.9%. It was followed by Africa with 1.6%. With the lowest fixed broadband penetration at 3.8%, Africa saw the third-fastest growth among all regions in Q2 2021, though the report noted that came from a low base.

Like the previous quarters, the growth rate was highest in the less saturated markets of Asia Other, where it stood at 2.7%. In East Asia, with a relatively healthy saturation, broadband markets grew by 2.2% on average.

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