Global Broadband Subscribers in Q4 2020

Growth continues in 89% of markets

Point Topic has published the Q4 2020 global broadband subscriber statistics

Summary of key findings

At the end of Q4 2020, the number of global fixed broadband connections stood at 1.18bn. Following a dip in Q4 2019 and a healthy recovery in Q1 2020 – Q3 2020, in Q4 2020 the quarterly growth returned to a normal seasonal pattern and stood at 1.6 per cent. As before, the extent of the recovery varied across different markets, with 15 countries reporting a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions in Q4 2020, compared to 17 in Q3 2020[1]. The decline was mainly either in highly saturated broadband markets or those where mobile connections are the preferred way of getting online, for example due to the local terrain or socio-economic factors.

The main trends in Q4 2020:

  • Just over 42 per cent of all net additions in fixed broadband subscribers came from East Asia, which also retained the largest regional market share of all subscribers at 47 per cent. Asia Other and the Americas were the regions with the next largest shares of fixed broadband additions.
  • At the country level, fixed broadband subscribers grew in 89 per cent of the 132 countries covered in this report, up from 87 per cent in Q3 2020.
  • All the largest 20 broadband markets saw growth this quarter, though in all but six of these markets it was slower than in Q3 2020.
  • China added 7 million fixed broadband subscribers, down from 11 million in Q3 2020, along with more than 70 million 5G customers.
  • The highest direct fibre broadband growth rates were mainly in the developing markets, with the UK, France and Italy also reporting quarterly growth in double figures.
  • Globally, between Q4 2020 and Q4 2019, the number of copper lines fell by 10.8 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 12.2 per cent.

Global and regional trends

Figure 1. Trends in world broadband subscriber growth. Source – Point Topic.

In Q4 2020, the quarterly fixed broadband subscriber growth rate stood at 1.6 per cent, with the number of connections reaching 1.18 bn (Figures 1 and 2). The growth rate was almost four times higher  than in Q4 2019, as broadband markets continue recovering from the impact of the global pandemic.

Figure 2. Global broadband subscribers and quarterly growth rates. Source – Point Topic.

In Q4 2020, East Asia’s share of net additions of fixed broadband subscribers was 42 per cent (Figure 3), compared to around 50 per cent in previous quarters. This was mainly due to the lower broadband connection adds in China this quarter. Nevertheless East Asia retained the largest regional market share of net additions as well as total fixed broadband subscribers – the latter was 47 per cent (Figure 4). Compared to Q3 2020, Africa, America Other and Asia Other saw their market shares increase slightly but the changes were insignificant (by 0.2 per cent or less).

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


Figure 4. Share of fixed broadband subscribers by region. Source – Point Topic.

In Q4 2020, the growth rate in four out of eight regions was slower compared to the previous quarter. The differences were especially notable in the Americas and East Asia (Figures 5 and 6).

Figure 5. Quarterly growth in fixed broadband subscribers by region, Q4 2020 vs Q3 2020. Source: Point Topic.

 

Figure 6. Fixed broadband subscriptions: quarterly growth compared. Source: Point Topic. 

Oceania maintained the lowest market share of global fixed broadband subscribers at 0.9 per cent. It was followed by Africa with 1.7%. With the lowest fixed broadband penetration at 3.96 per cent, Africa saw the second fastest growth in Q4 2020, though it came from a low base. Similarly to the previous quarters, the growth was highest in the less saturated markets of Asia Other (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Penetration and quarterly growth by region (size of bubble represents subscriber volume in Q4 2020). Source – Point Topic.

All the largest 20 broadband markets saw a positive growth this quarter as demand for broadband continued. In all but six of the markets the growth was slower than in Q3 2020, which is in line with the usual seasonal trends.

Figure 8. Changes in quarterly growth in fixed broadband subscribers in the largest 20 markets. Source: Point Topic.

Technology trends

Between Q3 2020 and Q4 2020, the share of FTTH connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow – it went up by 0.7 per cent and stood at 56 per cent. Cable broadband connections followed with a 19 per cent share. Copper-based (ADSL) and FTTx connections had 13 per cent each and their market shares further deteriorated in Q4 2020 as consumers migrated to direct fibre. Copper based connections still dominate in Africa, while cable is the prevalent technology in the Americas and FTTH has the largest market share in Asia.

Figure 9. Technology market share by region. Source – Point Topic.

We looked at the FTTH growth rates in the largest fibre markets with at least 0.5m fibre broadband connections. At the country level, the highest direct fibre growth rates in Q4 2020 were mainly in the developing markets, with the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Finland and Denmark also reporting significant growth.

In terms of FTTH net additions, China led with 9.4 million, while Brazil and France added more than a million fibre subscriptions.

Figure 10. Top markets by FTTH growth rate in Q4 2020 (countries with at least 0.5m fibre broadband subscribers). Source: Point Topic.

VDSL growth rates were in double figures in Lithuania, Turkey and Tunisia (24 per cent, 23 per cent and 18 per cent respectively), however this was from a very low base except for Turkey. Several countries saw a decline in VDSL subscriptions, mainly due to subscriber migration to direct fibre. China, Chile, Brazil, New Zealand and Luxembourg are some examples of this trend.

Figure 11. Top five markets by FTTH net additions in Q4 2020. Source: Point Topic.

 

Figure 12. Annual growth in subscriber numbers by technology. Source – Point Topic.

In terms of annual changes, between Q4 2019 and Q4 2020, the number of copper lines globally fell by 10.8 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 12.2 per cent (Figure 12). Wireless (mostly FWA) and satellite connections saw a healthy growth as these technologies are increasingly used to cover broadband ‘white spots’.

Top broadband countries

The top ten countries by total fixed broadband subscribers remained unchanged since Q2 2016 (Figure 13). China is approaching half a billion fixed broadband subscribers. It has added more than 7 million fixed connections in Q4 2020 (Figure 14), which was down from 11 million in Q3 2020. At the same time, the country is experiencing a dramatic growth in 5G subscribers, with more than 70 million added in Q4 2020, which is expected to slow down the growth of fixed broadband connections.

Figure 13. Country ranking by fixed broadband subscribers in Q4 2020.  Source – Point Topic.

 

Figure 14. Country ranking by fixed broadband net additions in Q4 2020. Source – Point Topic.

The smallest and well developed economies are among the top ten countries by fixed broadband penetration.

Figure 15. Country ranking by fixed broadband penetration in Q4 2020. Source – Point Topic.

[1] It is possible there will be restatements in the coming quarter/s and single period data should be viewed in that light.

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 130 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 isabelle.anderson@point-topic.com for more details.