According to research being concluded this month, global fixed broadband subscriptions stood at 422 million at the end of 2008, adding nearly 68 million subscriptions in the year and 16 million in the final quarter.
The biggest access technology remains DSL (65% of the total), but FTTx (11%) registered its biggest in year gain to date, adding over 11 million subscriptions - almost exactly the same number as cable broadband (21%) - now stands over 48 million.
The growth of FTTx is part explained by robust growth in Asia-Pacific: the region added 20% more subscriptions in 2008 than in 2007. In addition, nine of the world's ten largest FTTx operators are in the region.
Western Europe has seen broadband growth stagnate, as all but five of its 30 countries now exceed a household penetration level of 50% and 20 countries enjoy penetration of over 60%.
China, where broadband subscriptions grew by 21% over 2008 to reach 82 million subscriptions, passed the USA mid-year to become the world's largest fixed broadband market, though it still has a household penetration level of below 20%.
The IPTV total stood at 19.96 million at the end of 2008. Even by the standard of its own past record, growth was steady but not spectacular, registering net additions of 7.5 million. What is significant is the fact that of the four main multichannel TV platforms, IPTV and digital terrestrial (DTT) are increasing their share of the market and now hold 10% and 3% of the global market, respectively.
IPTV has not made the sort of inroads into broadband homes which operators might have expected, but it is wrong to declare that the concept is doomed to fail. In markets where the bandwidth is available and the marketing and pricing are attractive, IPTV is attracting big volumes of new customers and helping operators to improve retention rates and increase fixed line ARPU.
Operators like AT&T achieved over 800,000 net additions in 2008, while Free and France Telecom in France, PCCW in Hong Kong and Portugal Telecom all are growing their market shares strongly in competitive TV markets.
Julian Herbert, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media