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Fibre glides past two-thirds of global broadband subscriptions in Q1 2023

Updated analysis of trends in global and regional broadband subscriptions and technology adoption in first three months of year reveals robust growth in high-speed broadband offerings such as FTTH/B

Global fixed broadband subscribers have been growing steadily over the past few years, and an analysis of the fixed broadband market from PointTopic has revealed a broadband landscape in the first three months of 2023 continuously evolving to meet the growing demand for faster and more reliable connectivity, with a clear trend towards advanced, high-speed broadband offerings such as fibre-to-the-home/business (FTTH/B) – while technologies such as copper-based ADSL and VDSL broadband are experiencing a decline.

The study found that overall, as of Q1 2023, global fixed broadband connections reached 1.377 billion, reflecting a growth rate of 1.59% compared with the last quarter of 2022. At 21.6 million, the quarterly net adds were close to the figure recorded a year ago, though the growth rate (1.59%) was slower, compared with 1.77% in Q1 2022, with global inflation and economic instability having an impact.

The analyst recorded a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions in 18 countries, which mainly include emerging markets, as well as some saturated markets such as Singapore. However, while there were fluctuations in growth rates across regions and markets, the overall trend indicated a steady expansion of global broadband connectivity.

Indeed, the share of FTTH/B in total fixed broadband subscriptions was found to have continued to increase, and stood at 66.7%. Broadband connections based on other technologies saw their market shares shrink further, with an exception of satellite and wireless, mainly fixed wireless access (FWA), which remained stable. FTTx (mainly VDSL) share stood at 6.7%. VDSL subscriber numbers grew in 10 countries (including modest quarterly increase in the large VDSL markets of Turkey, Czech Republic, Greece and Germany, for example), while they fell in 22 other markets as consumers migrated to FTTH/B.

The analyst observed that the diverse growth rates among different broadband technologies highlight the dynamic nature of the industry as consumers seek more reliable and high-speed connections. It said the significant increase in FTTH/B connections and the growth of satellite and wireless broadband underline the ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide and ensure connectivity for all.

Between Q1 2022 and Q1 2023, the survey showed that the global landscape of broadband technologies witnessed significant shifts. The number of copper lines experienced further decline of 9.6%, while FTTH/B connections saw growth of 11.2% as consumers continued to show preference for more advanced options, and transition away from older and slower technologies. Cable broadband exhibited modest growth at 0.5%, maintaining relevance in certain markets. Satellite broadband also saw a modest growth of 1.3%, while wireless broadband demonstrated continued relevance, with a respectable growth rate of 4.9%.

PointTopic attributed these trends to the demand for connectivity in remote or underserved areas where traditional broadband infrastructure is not feasible. Looking forward, though, the analyst warned that it remained to be seen whether consumers will continue to gravitate towards fibre broadband offerings, particularly as global economies face potential slowdown and inflationary pressures.

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Looking regionally among the largest 20 broadband markets, all but one saw fixed broadband subscribers grow in Q1 2023, although in 10 of them the growth was slower than in Q4 2022. There was a slight drop in broadband subscribers in Russia.

The less-saturated broadband markets of India, Egypt, Brazil and Mexico recorded the highest quarterly growth rates in Q1 2023, all higher than 2%. China recorded an above 2% growth as well. At the other end of the spectrum, the mature markets of Germany, France, Japan, UK and Italy saw modest growth rates at below 0.5%.

The survey identified East Asia as continuing its market dominance in Q1 2023, maintaining its position as the largest market with a 49.6% share of global fixed broadband subscribers. This substantial market share is primarily driven by China. In the first quarter, broadband subscriber base grew faster in China, Hong Kong and Korea, compared with Q4 2022. As a result, the region’s net adds share globally went up from 63.2% to 68.8%.

Other companies in Asia accounted for 10.8% of the global broadband market, a similar level to the previous quarter, though the region’s net adds share went down from 12.8% to 9.4%.

Even though the eastern part of the region saw its net adds share decline from 3.4% to 0.5%, Europe’s market shares remained rather consistent, as a result of slower growth in almost all markets and the decline in broadband subscribers in Russia having an especially significant impact due to its market size.

Similarly, the survey found the Americas maintained relatively stable market shares of 10.3% and 8.1% respectively, while America/other’s net adds share increased from 7.8% to 9%, driven by higher growth in such sizeable markets as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Chile, among other countries.

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