Russia escapes broadband crunch as others falter

While many markets around the world have seen lower than expected growth over the past three years in terms of broadband adoption, Russia has bucked the trend by posting big growth figures, according to UK research firm Point Topic.

Oliver Johnson, CEO at Point Topic, said: “This has been a difficult period for the world.  Markets have been subject to a number of internal and external shocks that have made it pretty difficult for crystal ball gazers. Our global projection from May 2009 ended up being just over 3.5 per cent too optimistic compared to the actual numbers reported at the end of 2011.”

Malaysia and Russia at opposite ends of the spectrum, while US looks likely to slip down rankings

Russia and Malaysia are identified as being at opposite ends of the scale: in Russia, it has been notoriously difficult to source accurate figures for broadband take-up, according to Point Topic. However, new data released recently by Russian operators on fibre take-up is described as being particularly impressive.

“At the other end of the scale, in Malaysia, it’s a much more disappointing number, despite the market being theoretically ripe for growth – there were plans in place, the subscription pricing was at a reasonable level, demand certainly existed, but there is still not the level of take-up expected. It seems it’s down to lack of competition,” added Johnson.

Malaysia only very recently launched services with bandwidths over 4Mbps, so the hope is that the advent of faster services and more competition will drive the numbers up in future.

The USA is described as being only five per cent below targets set in 2009, as operators continue to cherry pick the revenue-rich areas, often already covered with a broadband deployment.

Lack of competition and a disconnect between federal oversight of the national regulator and the state-level restrictions that many incumbents are able to get into law mean the US is likely to continue slipping down the rankings of penetration, bandwidth and coverage, according to Point Topic.

Australia beats targets, India suffers from corruption and flat-footed regulators

India meanwhile missed projections by a small margin. The country faces “significant” infrastructure issues, and has suffered from corruption particularly with reference to licence allocation, the study states.

Coupled with a slow-moving approach from government and regulator, these elements have all combined to make the market with the second biggest potential in the world report stuttering numbers. Point Topic expects it to accelerate, but rural India will be making do with expensive low speed services for some time to come.

Australia beat Point Topic’s forecasts from 2009 by more than four per cent due partly to the relatively light recessionary impact, but thanks also to the National Broadband Network and associated spend on broadband development and awareness, as well as a high urban percentage population.

Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are markets which should be suffering far more from saturation than they seem to be, according to Point Topic. Generally high penetration of broadband means that operators have captured the new users that are available and the battle is then to churn them away from competitors.

Standalone broadband services start to disappear in France

France is often touted as a leader in Europe, thanks to high broadband penetration, high IPTV adoption and widespread VoIP use. However standalone, broadband only, services are starting to disappear, according to the report, as France offers the lowest price bundles, relative to average income in the country, of anywhere in the world.

Brazil and China are both reporting very strong numbers. The relaxation of some of the more onerous regulations and access to at least part of the markets by foreign suppliers and the growth of their monied middle classes has meant strong growth.

Both however face major infrastructure challenges. Penetration is still fairly low in comparison to many markets, and there is plenty of demand left in deployment areas to continue to grow for a number of quarters, according to the research firm.

“Overall broadband has fared reasonably well given the prevailing market conditions and certainly in comparison to other industries,” concludes Mr. Johnson. “Variances in local market conditions have had an impact on overall global growth but there are almost as many ups as there are downs.

“We couldn’t end this without mentioning our UK numbers. We’re based in the UK and do considerable work, right down to the postcode, on the state of the market, its players and its consumers. To be out by 0.35 per cent over a three year period is something we’re pretty happy with.”

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