When it comes to broadband, wireless technologies like LTE and Wi-Fi may be stealing the show in terms of growth rates and overall sexiness, but fixed-line broadband is still a growing and evolving business.
While fixed-line broadband is undoubtedly seeing a slowdown in growth due to market saturation and the growing popularity of wireless broadband in markets where fixed-line buildouts are slow and impractical, the latest figures from the Broadband Forum and Point Topic show modest but steady growth in fixed-line broadband uptake globally. (See sidebar: Broadband access status report) And while copper-based DSL (including ADSL2plus) is still the dominant access tech, FTTH and FTTx are growing fast.
That's no surprise - whether fixed or wireless, demand for broadband capacity is insatiable. That's driving demand not only for FTTH/FTTx, but also for technologies like VDSL2 vectoring and G.fast to help copper access links keep up. A global telco survey from Broadbandtrends released in April found that 57% of respondents are either actively deploying VDSL2 vectoring technology or are in trial and plan to deploy by the end of this year while 42% are currently evaluating G.fast. Not unexpectedly, most are adopting it for the speed boost (between 50 and 75 Mbps), but 58% are also doing it to stay competitive (see Chart 1 at the right).
But while speed matters as a competitive differentiator, it's not much of a revenue generator - at least not all by itself. To be sure, broadband providers can structure new tariff packages around new FTTH offerings and speed upgrades. But customers expect a lot of bang for the buck. That's why many broadband service providers bundle plenty of value-added services in the mix.
To get an idea, the latest figures from Point Topic (Q4 2013) show that in Asia Pacific, standalone residential broadband tariffs (regardless of technology) average at just south of $60 a month, and for that you get downstream speeds between 50 and 60 Mbps. For broadband bundles, tariffs average at well past the $80/month mark, at average speeds approaching 250 Mbps. Bundled services also mean lower average cost per megabit for fiber and copper services.
When it comes to bundled services, the focus has generally been on video - which is to say, IPTV. And much progress has been made in that direction. IPTV remains a growing business globally, and is expected to grow even further for at least the next five years.
But it won't be IPTV as we know it.
By all indications, video is now and will continue to be the driver of both fixed and mobile broadband traffic. And as broadband access gets faster and more flexible, IPTV will evolve into an even greater revenue opportunity - multiscreen services.
In fact, it will have to. Because customers are already demanding it.