Fiber Optic Overtakes Cable As 6.7m Users Join Broadband Foray Worldwide

Data compiled by research firm Point Topic reveals that in Q1 2008 fibre optic broadband for the first time added more subscribers than cable.

While there were 2.5 million cable broadband subscribers added worldwide in the first 3 months of 2008, fibre grew by over 4.2 million users.

“It’s a significant milestone for fibre optic broadband, where it is available consumers will take fibre over other broadband technologies,” says Oliver Johnson, Point Topic CEO.

There have been doubts expressed that consumers will find additional speed necessary or attractive but the evidence is that users value bandwidth. A significant factor in their choice of technology is price.

“If you look at the cost per megabit then DSL comes in at around $20 per megabit per month taking global averages. Cable does better at roughly $12 but they are both completely eclipsed by fibre where costs can get as low as 50 cents per megabit per month,” continues Johnson.

There are sizeable variations from country to country, region to region and operator to operator but a rule of thumb is that DSL can cost the consumer 15 times as much as fibre to get a megabit of bandwidth and cable is 7 times as expensive.

The growth in fibre numbers is being driven by China, Japan and South Korea where cable and DSL are losing subscribers to the fibre technologies. While in the US, UK, France and Germany low availability means low adoption.

“There are problems in the de-regulated markets when it comes to major infrastructure investment. Fibre deployment is expensive and in the US and Europe there are significant regulatory hurdles to overcome,” says Johnson.

“It’s difficult to persuade operators to make the sort of commitment needed when they can’t guarantee their returns. In most western markets regulators frown on monopolies and it’s very difficult to sanction government expenditure given the self-imposed legal frameworks. Without some
form of centralised funding however it will be a long time before consumers in these markets get access to cheaper bandwidth,” concludes Johnson.

China also continues to gain momentum in terms of broadband overall. At the moment it’s still number two in the world to the USA in terms of total broadband subscribers but the gap continues to close.