At the end of 2012, broadband analyst firm Point Topic reported that subscriber numbers for copper-based broadband services had fallen for the first time, with 415,000 subscribers lost in the fourth quarter. New figures reported by Point Topic show that this decline has accelerated in 2013, with 2.77 million copper broadband subscribers lost in the first three months of the year. ‘Copper-based’ services include all DSL, ADSL and ADSL2+ subscribers reported by operators across the world. Point Topic’s database of subscriber numbers also includes cable subscriber numbers, FTTx/VDSL and FTTH.
“Of course copper remains the dominant service for most users across the world,” commented Laura Kell, Operations Director at Point Topic. “But we believe that we are starting to see a shift in technology, particularly to fibre and hybrid fibre, as consumers require and will pay for higher speeds from their broadband connections.”
FTTx services have grown rapidly over the last two years, and at the end of March 2013 subscriber numbers had overtaken cable for the first time. Whilst the popularity of FTTH services has also grown, it has been at a much lower rate and their overall market share is much lower.
There are significant differences in the adoption of broadband technologies across the world. Nearly 50 per cent of the fixed broadband market in the Americas is served by cable. This is also the key market for FTTH technology – although other fibre technologies are yet to make an impact. Asia has the largest market for FTTx technologies, with highest population penetration in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Most of the decrease in copper subscribers originates in Asia while Africa is the only region which continues to post growth for copper subscriber numbers.
”Fixed broadband will continue to struggle in Africa as there is little or no legacy infrastructure and the superfast bandwidths will not be common for some time. Meanwhile in Asia and Europe where hybrid fibre is the technology of choice at the moment we see increasing overall bandwidths but perhaps at the cost of the ‘future proofing’ that end to end fibre provides,” says Kell.