The real story behind broadband household penetration rates

1 Jul 2009

Discussions on fixed broadband penetration rates usually focus on the extreme ends of the spectrum; impending saturation in countries with well-developed economies and the almost total lack of broadband provision in the poorer ones. TeleGeography believes issues around saturation tend to be overstated, while issues around lack of broadband cannot be overstated.

To date, TeleGeography has identified and tracked broadband service provision in 127 countries. Of these, only ten have so far achieved household penetration rates of more than 80%. This list includes the usual suspects – Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, UAE, Australia and Denmark. Two key points of note; none of these markets are huge ones (in total they represent less than 2% of the world’s population and just 6% of global GDP), and the total market opportunity does not have a ceiling of 100%. While TeleGeography chooses to use household penetration rate as the key metric, it must not be forgotten that there are currently in excess of 50 million broadband lines serving businesses, not households.

As can be seen from the figure, the great majority of broadband subscribers today are found in 53 countries, each with penetration rates ranging from 20% to 80%. There remains huge potential for growth in these countries. Meanwhile, at the bottom end of the scale there are 36 countries whose penetration rates are less than 5%. Moreover, many countries do not even make it onto the scale, as there has been no broadband deployment at all. 88 countries fall into this category and while many of these are tiny, some are not; together they account for a population of almost 700 million.

‘Broadband represents the most extreme example in the gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ said TeleGeography Executive Director John Dinsdale. ‘Less than 2% of African households have broadband compared with 68% of North American homes. Immediate short-term growth has been somewhat impacted by the recession, and mid-term growth will slow down in a few countries as they start to approach saturation, but globally broadband will remain a long-term high-growth market’. TeleGeography forecasts 704 million broadband subscribers by the end of 2013, and continued robust growth in the following years.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Insight provides detailed subscriber forecasts for over 160 countries and is a companion to the GlobalComms Database, a regularly updated online database of wireline, wireless and broadband competition. No other telecoms market research service rivals their collective geographic scope and depth of coverage.

For further information, please contact: John Dinsdale ( or call an account manager on +1 202 741 0020

TeleGeography's GlobalComms Insight