Who has weathered the broadband crunch?

May 7, 2012   |   Oliver Johnson

Point Topic News Release – Who has weathered the broadband crunch?

Latest figures released by Point Topic reveal which countries have overcome the broadband “crunch” – identifying those that have battled their way through to meet, or even exceed, expectations set in 2009.

Oliver Johnson, CEO at Point Topic, said: “This has been a difficult period for the world. Markets have been subject to a number of internal and external shocks that have made it pretty difficult for crystal ball gazers. Our global projection from May 2009 ended up being just over 3.5% too optimistic compared to the actual numbers reported at the end of 2011.”

After comparing numbers from three years ago with what those countries are reporting now, Point Topic reveals some differences across markets.

Big growth in Russia, but Malaysia lagged

The two extremes of the scale are Russia and Malaysia. In Russia, it has been notoriously difficult to source accurate figures for broadband take-up. New sources of information released since 2009 have not only forced up forecasts but also the actual number of broadband subscribers. Fibre has been particularly impressive according to the numbers that the operators are now reporting.

“At the other end of the scale, in Malaysia, it’s a much more disappointing number, despite the market being theoretically ripe for growth – there were plans in place, the subscription pricing was at a reasonable level, demand certainly existed, but there is still not the level of take-up expected. It seems it’s down to lack of competition,” commented Johnson.

Malaysia only very recently launched services with bandwidths over 4Mbps, so the hope is that the advent of faster services and more competition will drive the numbers up in future.

Slower growth than expected in the USA and India

The USA is only 5% below target. The operators continue to cherry pick the revenue rich areas, often already covered with a broadband deployment. Lack of competition and a disconnect between federal oversight of the national regulator and the state level restrictions that many incumbents are able to get into law, effectively road blocking further competition means the US is likely to continue slipping down the rankings of penetration, bandwidth and coverage.

India missed projections by a small margin. The market faces significant infrastructure issues and has suffered from corruption particularly with reference to licence allocation. Coupled with a slow moving approach from government and regulator these elements have all combined to make the market with the second biggest potential in the world report stuttering numbers. Point Topic expects it to accelerate but rural India will be making do with expensive low speed services for some time to come.

Whilst other markets weather the storm

Australia has beaten Point Topic’s forecasts from 2009 by more than 4%. Partly reflecting the relatively light recessionary impact but also, despite much hand wringing and contention, the National Broadband Network and associated spend on broadband development and awareness, as well as a high urban percentage population all contribute to a better than expected performance. Recent studies have indicated growth, in subscribers and bandwidth that Australia has added above expected, could be contributing as much as an additional US$6 billion/year to Australian GDP.

Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are markets which should be suffering far more from saturation than they seem to be. Generally high penetration of broadband means that operators have captured the new users that are available and the battle is then to churn them away from competitors. Multiple lines, often in businesses but not always, seem to be a common occurrence. These markets are operating at an unknown level and are setting the rules for those that follow when it comes to measuring how much a market can take. It goes without saying competition is fierce, bandwidths are high and prices are low.

France is often touted as a leader in Europe as it continues to beat expectations. With high broadband penetration France has also managed to get high IPTV adoption and widespread VoIP use. However standalone, broadband only, services are starting to disappear meaning consumers have less choice. This is being counteracted for the moment as France offers the lowest price bundles, relative to average income in the country, of anywhere in the world.

Brazil and China are both reporting very strong numbers. The relaxation of some of the more onerous regulations and access to at least part of the markets by foreign suppliers and the growth of their monied middle classes has meant strong growth. Both however face major infrastructure challenges. Currently penetration is still fairly low in comparison to many markets and there is plenty of demand left in deployment areas to continue to grow for a number of quarters. How they cope with connecting the rest of their populations will be interesting to watch.

“Overall broadband has fared reasonably well given the prevailing market conditions and certainly in comparison to other industries. Variances in local market conditions have had an impact on overall global growth but there are almost as many ups as there are downs.

“We couldn’t end this without mentioning our UK numbers. We’re based in the UK and do considerable work, right down to the postcode, on the state of the market, its players and its consumers. To be out by 0.35% over a three year period is something we’re pretty happy with.

“We have been forecasting world broadband for over a decade now. Of course the methodology is updated but we have been pretty consistent since 2009,” concluded Johnson.

Point Topic updates its global broadband forecasts every six months. The full forecasts are available within our Global Broadband Statistics service. You can get more detail about the service on the site, or contact us at [email protected]

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