With over 100 million lines, broadband has become one of the fastest growing technologies in history, according to UK based research group Point Topic. That number is a year-end projection of worldwide third-quarter growth from 79.4 million lines to 89.4 million. Actual fourth-quarter numbers have yet to be determined. The projection is conservatively based on a constant rate of growth, even thought the rate of growth in the fourth quarter is usually faster than that in the third.
Comparing broadband to cell phones shows how impressive the growth has been. It took cell phones 5.5 years to go from 10 million to 100 million. Broadband did it in 3.5. The rapid growth has been spurred by a number of influences, but two stand out: Growth has finally taken off in the large industrialized nations, and major DSL operators have been slashing prices.
China and all the G7 nations (US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and UK) are now among the top ten in terms of total broadband lines. The top ten in order are US, Japan, South Korea, China, Canada, Germany, France, Taiwan, UK, and Italy.
China is expected to overtake Korea in the first-quarter of 2004, Japan within a year, and eventually the US. South Korea continues to be the world leader in broadband penetration with one line for every four persons, but growth there is leveling off.
DSL is gaining and cable operators are slowly losing market share as phone companies using their greater financial strength extend coverage and cut prices. The eighth edition of the DSL Worldwide Directory — Consumer Services showed an average reduction of 25% in DSL fees between September 2002 and September 2003.
Broadband’s rate of growth should pick up even greater speed as demand increases for other technologies that depend on it. Voice-over-IP is one such co-technology. Expect broadband to become ubiquitous and dial-up service to all but disappear within a very few years. In communication technology, speed is everything.