At the end of Q4 2019, the number of global fixed broadband connections stood at 1.11 bn. The quarterly growth was only 0.61 per cent – significantly lower than we recorded in any quarter in recent years. A number of countries saw their fixed broadband subscriptions decline in Q4 2019. It is possible there will be restatements in the coming quarter/s and single period data should be viewed in that light. Current events may be having an impact and we will monitor operators and countries with reference to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The main trends in Q4 2019:
In Q4 2019, the number of global fixed broadband subscriber growth slowed down significantly and stood at 0.61 per cent quarter-on-quarter with the number of connections reaching 1.11 bn (Figures 1 and 2).
Around 40 per cent of all net additions in fixed broadband subscribers came from Asia – Other this quarter having overtaken East Asia (Figure 3). The latter region experienced loss of subscribers by 2.4 per cent mainly due to China’s fixed broadband market contracting by nearly 600,000 subscribers. Despite this fact, East Asia retained the largest regional market share of all subscribers at 47 per cent (Figure 4). Compared to Q3 2019, market shares across most regions changed very marginally.
Figure 3. Share of net adds in fixed broadband subscribers by region. Source – Point Topic.
Compared to the previous quarter, all but three regions experienced a drop in the quarterly growth rate. Most notably, in East Asia this indicator changed from 3.02 per cent in Q3 2019 to -0.03 per cent in Q4 2019. In America – Other, where Telefonica Peru lost 83,000 subscribers in Q4 2019, the quarterly growth rate has dropped from 1.92 per cent to 1.03 per cent (Figure 5).
Only Asia Other saw an increase in quarterly growth, where it was up to 2.56 per cent compared to 2.23 per cent in Q3 2019. Growth in Europe remained relatively unchanged compared to the previous quarter. Oceania maintained the lowest market share of all fixed broadband subscribers at 1 per cent while Africa kept the lowest fixed broadband penetration at 3.43 per cent (Figures 6 and 7).
In Q4 2019, East Asia experienced a quarterly fall of 0.03 per cent mainly due to the drop in subscriber numbers in China. China Telecom and China Mobile have added much fewer subscribers this quarter, while China Unicom recorded a churn. Although we will review the figures in future for any restatements, one of the possible reasons for the decline in fixed broadband connections is the launch of 5G by the Chinese operators which could have made some subscribers swap fixed broadband for mobile. China Telecom reported as many as 4.6m 5G subscribers in Q4 2019 while China Mobile had 6.7m at the end of January 2020.
Elsewhere, South Africa also reported a big drop in fixed broadband subscriber number as the regulator restated their figures. In this country, the growth in FTTH subscriptions was not big enough to compensate for the decline in DSL connections.
Between Q4 2019 and Q3 2019, the market share of FTTH connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow – it went up by 0.66 per cent globally. The share of cable-based subscriptions decreased by 0.16 per cent while copper-based subscriptions (ADSL) continued to deteriorate and fell by 0.52 per cent. The share of FTTx subscriptions was rather stable.
Direct fibre connections continue to grow at high rates. In Q4 2019, China and Brazil recorded the highest FTTH net ads in absolute numbers. Belgium, Thailand, Ireland, Brazil, France and UK were among the countries which recorded the highest FTTH quarterly growth rates – 26.3 per cent, 17.9 per cent, 12.4 per cent, 12.3 per cent, 11.2 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, VDSL growth rates were mainly in single figures this quarter only with the Isle of Man and Puerto Rico recording 12 per cent and 11.4 per cent growth respectively. Several countries have suffered the effects of decline in copper subscriptions. In Spain, the continuing decrease in DSL connections resulted in Telefonica Espana losing 55,000 fixed broadband subscribers.
Figure 9. Annual growth in subscriber numbers by technology (%). Source – Point Topic.
In terms of annual changes, between Q4 2018 and Q4 2019 the number of copper lines globally fell by 9.8 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 14.1 per cent and FTTx by 5.5 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 while United States recorded the highest net additions of more than 700,000 subscribers this quarter (Figure 11).
The smallest and well developed economies are among the top 10 by fixed broadband penetration.
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 email@example.com for more details.