FTTX: Europe in last place and falling

"The next generation digital divide is becoming a real and global phenomenon," says Vince Chook, Point Topic Analyst and author of the report 'World broadband statistics: Q4 2006'.

While Europeans have long been used to being a bandwidth first world continent that status is about to be downgraded.

In global terms by the end of of 2006, the world FTTx subscriber base had reached 30 million lines, with a year-on-year growth of 54.8%.

"South Korea added close to 2 million FTTx subscribers, the US grew by over 150% and China now has more than a third of all fiber subscriptions in the world," says Chook.

The whole of Europe meanwhile put on roughly half the number of new subscribers as North America and more than three quarters of of those adds were in Russia.

"Value added services, like HDTV over broadband, are driving the demand for ever faster networks," continues Chook, "and as a result consumers are starting to shift from DSL to fiber where it is available."

DSL subscriber numbers in Japan actually dropped by 0.18% in from Q1-Q2 2006, FTTX subscriptions grew by 15.6% in the same period.

European operators have announced a number of investment plans to upgrade their networks. BT will spend around €15bn on it's 21CN project which will support ADSL2+ (up to 24 Mbps) to be delivered to UK consumers by 2010.

However this doesn't bode well in terms of closing the next generation divide, for example NTT Japan alone will spend €40bn in the same period on a network capable of delivering 100 Mbps.

"Without fiber Europe will rapidly become the digital slowcoach on the 'information super highway'," concludes Chook.