The latest OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) broadband statistics tell a sad tale of a widening digital divide between the developed world and countries like South Africa.
According to the December 2006 OECD broadband statistics the number of broadband subscribers in the OECD increased by 26%, from 157 million in December 2005 to 197 million in December 2006.
The average broadband penetration rate in the OECD is now standing at 16.9%, an increase of 3.4% over the 13.5% penetration rate a year ago. South Africa’s broadband penetration rate currently sits at around 1%, something that has been achieved over 4 years.
The strongest per-capita subscriber growth over the year comes from Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Ireland. Each country added more than 5.8 subscribers per 100 inhabitants during the past year.
Compare this with South Africa’s yearly growth of less than 0.5% and it becomes clear that the broadband gap between the developed world and countries like South Africa is widening.
Fiber to Home gaining momentum
Fibre-to-the-home connections, typically providing subscribers with connection speeds of 50 Mbps and more, continue to make in roads into the broadband space.
Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and Fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) subscriptions now comprise nearly 7% of all broadband connections in the OECD and the percentage is growing. Korea and Japan each have more than 6 fibre-based broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants.
Japan leads the OECD in fibre connections directly to the home with 7.9 million FTTH subscribers in December 2006. Fibre subscribers alone in Japan outnumber total broadband subscribers in 23 of the 30 OECD countries.
Wireless struggling to compete against fixed line offerings
Wireless services like iBurst and satellite connections continue to struggle to win a significant market share in the OECD.
Currently 98% of all broadband connections in the OECD, defined as services with download speeds equal to or faster than 256 kbit/s, are fixed line offerings. DSL is the most popular connection with 62% market share, followed by Cable modems with 29% and Fibre connections with 7%.
All other broadband connections, including satellite, fixed wireless and power line communication, account for less than 2% of the broadband connections in the OECD. This figure however does not include 3G mobile technologies.
In South Africa around half of all broadband connections are wireless which is mainly due to the high cost and poor service offerings in the fixed line space.