Internet economy: Wireless broadband subscriptions top half a billion, says OECD
22/06/2011 - The fast-growing popularity of smartphones and tablet PCs is driving growth in mobile broadband services.
Wireless broadband subscriptions in OECD countries had exceeded half a billion by the end of 2010, an increase of more than 10 percent on June 2010, according to new OECD statistics.
Fixed broadband subscriptions reached 300 million for the first time, but growth slowed to 6% year-on-year, the lowest growth rate since the OECD started collecting broadband statistics just over a decade ago. This reflects higher broadband penetration and market saturation in some countries.
The Netherlands and Switzerland lead the table, with 38.1 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, followed by Denmark (37.7) and Norway (34.6). Fibre subscriptions continue to grow and account for 12.3% of all fixed broadband connections.
DSL is still the most widely used technology (57.6%), followed by cable (29.4%). Leading countries in fibre are Japan (58%), Korea (55%), Slovak Republic (29%) and Sweden (26%).
Korea is the leading country for wireless broadband subscriptions, with 89.8 per 100 inhabitants, followed by Finland (84.8), Sweden (82.9) and Norway (79.9). This compares to an OECD average of 41.6 and a total of just under 512 million.
Growth in mobile broadband has been fuelled by inexpensive, flat-rate mobile data plans, according to the OECD Communications Outlook 2011. The communications sector, it notes, has emerged from the financial crisis with a resilience and underlying strength that reflects its critical role in the global economy
Key factors in the sector’s continuing health include long contract durations of mobile operators, the growing popularity of bundled offers of television, mobile and fixed telephony, and the fact that communication services are increasingly perceived as non-discretionary spending items. Households looking to cut spending seem to be economising in other areas, at least as a first measure, it says.
The increasing prevalence of bundled services has also played a role in this shift by reinforcing customer loyalty and reducing churn, which helped operators during the downturn. Bundled services may benefit consumers by offering lower prices and extra benefits such as unified billing, integrated services or customer assistance.
But, the OECD warns, the complexity of some bundled offers makes them increasingly hard to interpret and poses additional challenges for consumers trying to compare prices and make informed decisions. In addition, bundling may make it harder for users to switch providers or drop a service.
The Outlook also highlights the growing importance of IPv6 as the stock of unallocated IPv4 addresses has nearly run out. It urges quicker adoption by industry as the only long-term solution able to ensure the capability of the Internet to connect billions of people and devices.
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