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China Surpasses U.S. Broadband by Population

  |  October 14, 2008   |  Comments

By the numbers, China's broadband population is larger than the U.S. with continued growth on the horizon.

Subscriber-for-subscriber, China caught up to the U.S. in broadband or high-speed Internet lines in August 2008. Plus, China continues to gain subscribers at twice the pace, says a report from Point Topic, "China Overtakes the USA to be World Broadband Number 1."

New broadband lines added in the U.S. fell from 3.4 million in the last quarter of 2007 to 1.1 million in Q2 2008. In the same period, new broadband lines rose from 3.5 million to 5.0 million in China during the same period.

In June of 2008 the U.S. had a total of 76.9 million broadband lines, and China had 76 million, a difference of 900,000. "The gap was less than the number China added in July alone, 1.14 million according to Chinese official figures," the report stated. When broadband first became widely available in China, it was predicted the country would overtake the U.S. in number of subscribers as early as 2006, though the report said growth leveled off in China while it accelerated in the U.S. up until this year.

"It's not so surprising that the U.S. has been overtaken in absolute numbers -- after all, China has more than three times as many homes and people," said Oliver Johnson, chief executive of Point Topic. "But the U.S. has also fallen behind the leading European and Asian countries in percentage take-up of broadband."

The report suggests the U.S. broadband penetration slowdown has implications for the competitiveness of the U.S. economy in a high-tech world.

Broadband Subscribers by Country, Q2 2007-Q2 2008 (M)
Q2 2007 Q3 2007 Q4 2007 Q1 2008 Q2 2008
U.S. 66.2 69.8 73.2 75.7 76.9
China 59.5 63.1 66.6 71.0 76.0
Difference 6.7 6.7 6.6 4.7 0.9
Source: Point Topic 2008

A separate report from Point Topic on the share of world broadband subscribers in the second quarter of 2008 show the greatest saturation of broadband subscribers in these regions:

  • Western Europe: 26: 19 percent
  • North America: 22: 46 percent
  • South and East Asia: 21.98 percent
  • Asia-Pacific: 15.89 percent
  • Latin America: 5.69 percent
  • Eastern Europe: 4.96 percent
  • Middle East and Africa: 2.83 percent.

Government regulation was cited as among the factors hindering further growth of broadband penetration in the U.S. "It has allowed the incumbent operators to keep the broadband market largely to themselves, leading to higher prices and slower growth. In many countries where there is more open competition the broadband market has leapt ahead -- not just in China," the report states.

Point Topic collects quarterly statistics and estimates from major primary suppliers of DSL lines, cable modems, and fiber-to-the-home services. The research firm also collates data from service providers, which resells products provided by these primary suppliers.

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Enid Burns

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