China takes broadband crown from U.S.

FRAMINGHAM – China overtook the United States as the largest fixed broadband subscriber market in the first quarter, according to market research firm Dittberner Associates.

With 28 percent growth over last year, China ended the quarter with 71.6 million subscribers, 1.4 million more than the United States. Subscriber growth in the United States was 12 per cent over the first quarter of last year. Overall, global fixed broadband subscribers increased 5 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 to reach 355 million.

After China and the United States, the remainder of the top 10 largest broadband subscriber bases are Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Korea, Italy, Canada and Spain, according to Dittberner. Germany had the second largest annual growth – 23.4 percent – while Korea had the least amount of growth at just less than four per cent. Germany’s growth is caused by the slow deployment of broadband in the past. It will close the gap with third place Japan, but is unlikely to overtake it, Dittberner notes.

With a 20 percent household penetration, PC households growing at more than 20 percent, and the cable TV operators poised to jump into the fixed broadband services market, China will continue to pull away from the United States, Dittberner claims.

The hot new technology in broadband is DOCSIS 3.0-compliant 100Mbps HFC. Korea’s Hanaro Telecom is the leader in this technology and has added more than 400,000 subscribers since the second quarter of 2007, Dittberner says. Other service providers, such as JCOM in Japan, Essent in the Netherlands, and Videotron in Canada, have recently launched 100Mbps HFC services as well, and the MSOs in the United States are trialing it.

Dittberner says that this, combined with CableLabs’ Tru2Way interactive TV service, currently makes a fiber-to-the-home deployment “not an obvious choice” for future broadband networks.