Global Broadband Subscribers – Q4 2016

Point Topic has published Q4 2016 broadband subscriber figures

In Q4 2016, the number of global fixed broadband subscribers grew by 1.46% quarter-on-quarter. The total number of fixed broadband subscribers stood at 855.9m.

Summary of key findings

At the end of Q4 2016, the quarterly growth of fixed broadband subscribers slowed down and stood at 1.46 per cent. The global number of fixed broadband subscribers stood at 855.9m.

The main trends that we spotted this quarter:

  • In Q4 2016 the highest growth q-o-q was recorded in Africa, Asia – Other, and Oceania. In Asia – Other, Vietnam and Turkey saw particularly impressive growth driven by a 13 per cent and 6 per cent increase in the FTTP connections.
  • In Oceania, New Zealand and Australia recorded above 20 per cent quarterly boost in FTTP connections.
  • Copper decline continued. In Q4 2016, the fall was especially notable in Oceania, where due to the boost in FTTH and VDSL, the share of copper dropped by 3.7 per cent.
  • In 12 months to the end of 2016, China added nearly 92 million FTTH connections. This figure is almost as high as the total fixed broadband subscribers in the US.

Global and regional trends

Global broadband subscriber trends

Figure 1. World broadband subscriber numbers and growth. Source – Point Topic.

In Q4 2016, the number of global fixed broadband subscribers grew by 1.46% quarter-on-quarter. The growth has slowed down compared to Q3 2016 despite holiday promotional offers (Figures 1 and 2).

Global trends table

Figure 2. World broadband subscriber quarterly growth figures. Source – Point Topic.

This reflects a long-term trend common to saturated fixed broadband markets in the developed economies where growth rates are stagnating or falling. Growth in the rest of the world was slower, too, though there is still plenty of scope there. In Q4 2016, 49 per cent of all net additions in fixed broadband subscribers came from East Asia (Figure 3). Having said that, the quarterly growth rate in this region has fallen to 1.7 per cent, compared to 4 per cent recorded in Q3 2016 (Figure 4).

Net Adds by region

Figure 3. Share of net adds in fixed broadband subscribers by region, Q4 2016. Source – Point Topic.

In Q4 2016 the highest growth q-o-q was recorded in Africa (2.8 per cent), Asia – Other (2.1 per cent), and Oceania (2 per cent). In the case of Asia – Other, countries such as Vietnam and Turkey saw particularly impressive growth driven by a 13 per cent and 6 per cent increase in the FTTP connections respectively. In Oceania, New Zealand and Australia recorded above 20 per cent quarterly boost in FTTP connections.

Regional growth and penetration

Figure 4. Penetration and quarterly growth by region (size of bubble represents subscriber volume in Q4 2016). Source – Point Topic.

When it comes to Africa, the region has very low fixed broadband market saturation where even small nominal changes in the subscriber figures can result in high growth rates given the lower base.

Technology trends

The share of copper based technologies (DSL, ADSL and ADSL2+) in the total subscriber figure continued to fall in all regions except Africa. In Q4 2016, the fall was especially notable in Oceania, where FTTH and FTTx, which includes VDSL, started to gain more ground. The share of copper in this region dropped by 3.7 per cent quarter-on-quarter (Figure 5).

Tech market share

Figure 5. Technology market share by region, Q4 2016. Source – Point Topic.

Overall, the share of FTTH connections in total fixed broadband subscribers continued to increase in all regions while the share of cable based subscriptions dropped slightly in Asia and Oceania as operators migrated subscribers from legacy cable networks to FTTH and VDSL platforms.

In terms of the annual changes, the number of copper lines globally fell by 10.1 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 56.3 per cent between Q4 2015 and Q4 2016 (Figure 6). These figures are slightly less dramatic compared to the previous quarter but the trend of copper to direct fibre substitution remains prominent. The negative growth in FTTx lines was caused mainly by this technology being replaced with FTTH on a large scale in China. At the same time, fixed wireless technologies are increasingly giving way to 4G LTE based mobile broadband access. In fact, it is offered as one of the ways to get broadband at home in several countries and regions, for example Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Annual growth

Figure 6. Annual growth in technology subscriber numbers (%). Source – Point Topic.

Globally, from Q3 2015 FTTH is used by more broadband subscribers than cable. With an increasing number of fibre network upgrades to gigabit speeds being announced regularly by operators worldwide, this trend is likely to continue. As the same time, a number of cable providers especially in Canada and the US are responding with Docsis 3.1 deployments also capable of gigabit speeds.

Top broadband countries

The top ten countries by the total fixed broadband subscribers remained unchanged since Q2 2016 (Figure 7). However, in Q4 2016 France was pushed down by the Russian Federation in the rating. China passed a quarter of a billion fixed broadband subscriber milestone in Q1 2016 and continues to grow at impressive speed.

Top ten by subs

Figure 7. Country ranking by broadband subscribers in Q4 2016. Source – Point Topic.

Top ten net adds

Figure 8. Broadband subscribers added in Q4 2016. Source – Point Topic.

China also dominates globally by the number of quarterly net additions in fixed broadband subscribers, mainly driven by FTTH rollout on a massive scale. In 12 months to the end of 2016, the country added nearly 92 million FTTH connections. This figure is nearly as high as the total fixed broadband subscribers in the US.

This quarter, Russian Federation and Turkey are the new entrants in the Net Adds Top 10 ranking.

Get access to the full report and data used in it

The data used in this report is taken from Point Topic’s Global Broadband Statistics service that allows customers to analyse the datasets covering fixed broadband subscribers in more than 120 countries at country, operator and technology level. Please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail simona@point-topic.com for more details.

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