At the end of Q1 2020, the number of global fixed broadband connections stood at 1.13bn. The quarterly growth has recovered compared to Q4 2019 and stood at 1.25 per cent. Still, it was the second lowest in the last six quarters. As many as 22 countries saw their fixed broadband subscriptions decline in Q4 2019. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic may have started having an impact on the broadband market, though we expect it to be more prominent in Q2 2020. One example of the Covid-19 effect was the quarterly report by Altice, the owner of Portugal Telecom, SFR, Suddenlink and Optimum. In Q1 2020, Altice pointed out that its customer metrics included some 6,000 customers that have not been disconnected pursuant to the Keep Americans Connected pledge that the company made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the figures excluded 9,000 new customers with students in the household that are receiving broadband services for free for 60 days.
Following a slight drop in fixed broadband subscribers in Q4 2019, this quarter China reported a 1.45 per cent growth, which was much slower compared to the usual 3-5 per cent recorded in the past. In Q1 2020, China Telecom, one of the three Chinese incumbents, reported a drop in fixed broadband subscribers for the first time. In addition to market saturation and the effects of the pandemic on spending, another reason for these trends could be users switching to the recently launched 5G services. China saw significant adds in 5G subscribers in the last few months – their number has shot up from 5m in Q4 2019 to at least 48m in Q1 2020.
Other main trends in Q1 2020:
 It is possible there will be restatements in the coming quarter/s and single period data should be viewed in that light.
Figure 1. Trends in world broadband subscriber growth. Source – Point Topic.
In Q1 2020, the number of global fixed broadband subscriber growth recovered slightly and stood at 1.25 per cent quarter-on-quarter, with the number of connections reaching 1.13 bn (Figures 1 and 2).
Around 48 per cent of all net additions in fixed broadband subscribers came from East Asia this quarter (Figure 3). The region has recovered after a drop in fixed broadband connections in Q4 2019. In Q4 2019, East Asia retained the largest regional market share of all subscribers at 47 per cent (Figure 4). Compared to Q4 2019, market shares across most regions changed very marginally.
Figure 3. Share of net adds in fixed broadband subscribers by region. Source – Point Topic.
Figure 4. Share of fixed broadband subscribers by region. Source – Point Topic.
In terms of quarterly growth rate, all but three regions (North America, America Other and East Asia) experienced slower growth in Q1 2020 compared to Q4 2019. Nevertheless, fixed broadband subscribers have increased in all regions (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Quarterly growth rates by region, Q1 2020 vs Q4 2019
Oceania maintained the lowest market share of global fixed broadband subscribers at 1 per cent while Africa had the lowest fixed broadband penetration at 3.45 per cent. Along with Africa, the quarterly growth was slowest in Europe (Figures 6 and 7).
Figure 6. Penetration and quarterly growth by region (size of bubble represents subscriber volume in Q1 2020). Source – Point Topic.
Between Q1 2020 and Q4 2019, the market share of FTTH connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow – it went up by 0.57 per cent. The share of cable-based subscriptions grew by 0.13 per cent while copper-based subscriptions (ADSL) continued to deteriorate and fell by 0.61 per cent. The share of FTTx subscriptions continued to remain stable. Copper based connections still dominate in Africa while cable is the prevalent technology in the Americas.
Figure 8. Technology market share by region. Source – Point Topic.
Direct fibre connections continue to grow at high rates. In Q1 2020, China, Brazil, France, Vietnam, and United States recorded the highest FTTH/P net ads (from half a million and up). Belgium, Colombia, Thailand, Pakistan, UK, and Brazil were among the countries which recorded FTTH/P quarterly growth rates in double figures – 23.4 per cent, 16.5 per cent, 14.2 per cent, 13.9 per cent, 12.6 per cent and 12.2 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, VDSL growth rates were in single figures this quarter. Several countries saw a decline in VDSL subscriptions: China, New Zealand, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, and Denmark are some examples.
In terms of annual changes, between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020 the number of copper lines globally fell by 10.3 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 12.1 per cent and FTTx by 5 per cent (Figure 9). Wireless (mostly FWA) and satellite connections saw a healthy growth as these technologies are increasingly used to cover broadband ‘white spots’.
The top ten countries by total fixed broadband subscribers remained unchanged since Q2 2016 (Figure 10). China is approaching half a billion of fixed broadband subscribers, having added 6.5 million this quarter (Figure 11).
Figure 10. Country ranking by fixed broadband subscribers in Q1 2020. Source – Point Topic.
Figure 11. Country ranking by fixed broadband net additions in Q1 2020. Source – Point Topic.
The smallest and well developed economies are among the top 10 countries by fixed broadband penetration.
Figure 12. Country ranking by fixed broadband penetration in Q1 2020. Source – Point Topic.
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. The data is also available as part of our Double Play and Triple Play service. Please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.