Wireless bit player in broadband show

Increasing demand for faster connections to the Web has led to “substantial” broadband subscriber growth over the past year, according to market research firm In-Stat/MDR.

At the beginning of 2002, the number of worldwide broadband subscribers passed the 30 million mark, and by the end of this year worldwide subscriber totals are expected to surpass 46 million, the firm says. DSL has become the premier broadband access technology in the international market, while cable modem service continues to do well in the U.S., according to the report.

In late 2001, the number of worldwide DSL subscribers surpassed 17 million, letting DSL service replace cable modem service as the most widely used broadband access technology, In-Stat/MDR says. A sharp rise in the number of DSL subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region sparked worldwide DSL growth.

In the U.S., cable modem subscribers continue to outnumber DSL subscribers by a wide margin. At the beginning of 2002, there were 7.12 million U.S. cable modem subscribers and 4.6 million DSL subscribers.

The residential market will continue to be hotly contested between the broadband access technologies because of the low penetration and adoption rates expected for cable modems in the business sector, according to In-Stat/MDR. U.S. cable operators have rapidly made cable modem service available to the majority of residential customers while almost ignoring the business community, the firm says.

Meanwhile, the availability of broadband access remains the greatest challenge to long-term broadband growth because the majority of the world’s telecommunications infrastructure cannot yet support broadband access technologies.

Other broadband access technologies, such as satellite broadband, fibre-to-the-home and fixed wireless service, are merely bit players in the overall broadband access market, according to In-Stat/MDR. The three services account for only five per cent of current worldwide broadband subscribers.