Fibre forges ahead but global fixed broadband shows varied growth in Q1 2022

Report from Point Topic finds fixed broadband subscriber numbers growing in 90% of covered territories, with FTTH accelerating.

The transition of the global fixed broadband market from an arena dominated by copper to one that will be optical fibre-based continues apace, with – according to the Point Topic global broadband subscribers Q1 2022 report – the markets seeing a surge in the share of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks, albeit with somewhat underwhelming overall growth.

The report found that in the quarter, the general subscriber growth rate stood at 1.7%, with the number of connections reaching 1.3 billion, and that – similar to Q4 2021 – the growth rate was slightly lower than in the respective quarter a year ago.

As the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to increase, the share of FTTH networks in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to increase, and stood at 58%, up just under a percentage point compared with Q4 2021. What were categorised as superfast and ultrafast cable broadband connections followed, with an increase of 17%.

Networks based on all other technologies lost market shares to fibre. Between Q1 2022 and Q4 2021, the number of copper lines fell by 9.85%, while FTTH connections increased by 13.5%. In Q1 2021, cable and copper-based held 17% and 10% shares respectively. VDSL, included in FTTx figures, saw subscriber numbers grow further in some countries, while their numbers fell in 16 markets as direct fibre took hold.

Looking geographically, Point Topic found 13 countries reporting a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions. These were mainly to be found in saturated markets with high broadband penetration or those where mobile broadband was the dominant method of access to the internet. All the largest 20 broadband markets grew fixed broadband subscribers in Q1 2022. Compared with the previous quarter, Q1 2022 growth was significantly slower in India, Vietnam, Brazil and Turkey, although the growth rates were still above 1%.

In terms of individual nations, China added 14 million, Brazil 1.1 million and France a million fibre broadband subscriptions. Regionally, in Q1 2022, the growth in number of fixed broadband subscribers was slower than in Q4 2021 in all regions except for East Asia and North America.

In the latter, said Point Topic, this was the case thanks to stronger growth in both the United States and Canada, while the markets of China and South Korea were largely responsible for faster growth in East Asia, which was found to have recovered its share of net additions to fixed broadband subscribers, standing at 71% compared with 52% in the previous quarter.

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East Asia has retained the largest regional market share of fixed broadband connections, at 48%. The data also showed that compared with Q4 2021, North America, America Other, Eastern Europe, Europe Other and Oceania saw their market shares decline, while they increased for Africa, East Asia and Asia Other – though in all regions the changes were less than one percentage point.

With China dominating East Asia in terms of market size, Point Topic attributed this regional recovery mainly to much higher broadband subscriber net adds in the country in Q1 2022 compared with Q4 2021. As a result, it said, the share of adds in Asia Other dropped from 25% to 11% quarter-on-quarter.

In Q1 2022, the analyst recorded negative net adds in Eastern Europe due to the significant quarterly fall in fixed broadband subscribers in Ukraine.

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