DSL Has Record Growth Spurt

Global digital subscriber line (DSL) subscriptions are entering a high growth phase, achieving three consecutive record-breaking quarters, according to the DSL Forum with statistics from Point Topic. The first quarter of 2004 alone brought 9.5 million new lines worldwide, almost doubling the same period in 2003, bringing the total to 73.426 million DSL subscribers.

In-Stat/MDR projects that worldwide cable modem subscriptions will only get close to current DSL figures in 2007 when 68 million subscribers are expected.

Predictions of China’s emerging broadband dominance have been proven, as DSL Forum found the country to have the largest DSL population in the world, adding another 2.85 million in the first quarter of 2004.

Global DSL Ranking,
Q1 2004
China 13.995 million
Japan 11.196 million
U.S. 10.584 million
South Korea 6.580 million
Germany 4.840 million
France 4.116 million
Italy 2.875 million
Taiwan 2.590 million
Canada 2.340 million
UK 2.272 million
Source: DSL Forum/Point Topic

Cable modem significantly dominated U.S. broadband subscriptions, but DSL has surged from 28 percent market share in March 2003 to 42 percent in 2004.

“Cable modem, particularly in the U.S., got out of the gate first and they are doing well,” said Tom Starr, president and chairman of the DSL Forum. “But DSL is becoming available in more and more neighborhoods and will continue. More people in the U.S. can get it now,” he said.

“Approximately three-quarters of customers nationwide have DSL available in their area and one-quarter are still untapped,” said Starr, predicting availability gains over the next year or so.

Coupled with added availability, Starr cites price reductions and service features as key drivers for continued U.S. adoption. “The next thing that will fuel growth will be support for a richer set of applications for customers. DSL service providers have made home networking easy and they took the lead with helping the customer,” said Starr.

South Korea may be ranked fourth in terms of subscriber numbers, but the country was first in achieving 20 percent DSL penetration of phone lines.

“South Korea continues to stand out in terms of penetration and adoption. Cable data services are available so there is competition. A number of things have helped but are not unique to South Korea,” said Starr.

Starr cites the geographic layout of South Korea, where a large portion of residents live in multiple-dwelling units (MDU), making DSL easier to deploy. In fact, In-Stat/MDR says that MDU could hold the key to an enormous current and future market for broadband services because it offers vast subscriber opportunity.

In-Stat/MDR reports that the Asia Pacific region is the largest and fastest growing MDU market – in terms of number of households – representing over 50 percent of the worldwide market in 2004.

Further aiding South Korea’s penetration levels is a clear and stable regulatory environment, where the government rules don’t fluctuate. “In some countries, court challenges cause rules to change often, creating an impediment to adoption,” said Starr.

Penetration of DSL per
100 phone lines, Q1 2004
South Korea 28.3%
Taiwan 19.8%
Belgium 16.7%
Hong Kong 16.1%
Japan 15.7%
Israel 14.5%
Denmark 14.2%
Finland 13.6%
Singapore 13.4%
France 12.1%
Source: DSL Forum/Point Topic

Other penetration findings: Taiwan is poised to reach the mass penetration level; Belgium overtook Hong Kong to become the first European country to enter the global top three by penetration; Israel leads the DSL market share among the countries of the Middle East and Africa, with 40,000 new subscribers.

According to the Probe Group, the Latin America region will boost DSL subscriptions with an expected annual growth rate of 17 percent in the consumer/SOHO market through the year 2009. The DSL Forum/Point Topic report found nearly 2 million subscribers in the Latin America and Caribbean region, earning 2.65 percent of the share of global subscribers.

The Asia Pacific region leads with 29.34 percent of all global DSL subscriptions, followed by the European Union (28.18 percent); South and Southeast Asia (20.00 percent); and North America (17.60 percent).

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