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Reports: Global broadband subs exceed 400M; exaflood increasing

Wed, 11/19/2008 - 7:10am
Traci Patterson

The number of global broadband subscribers has surpassed 400 million, according to a new report by Point Topic that was prepared for the Broadband Forum.

A decade ago, there were only 57,200 worldwide broadband subscribers, the Broadband Forum said. In the last 10 years, there has been a 600,000 percent increase in the number of global subscribers – and a 300 percent increase in the last five years alone.

In the last 10 years, access technology has evolved to include fiber, which began in 2002 with 18,000 subscribers. Fiber now delivers broadband services to more than 45 million consumers globally.

“When Point Topic started researching broadband in 1998, it was still mostly in the technical trial stage,” said Oliver Johnson, a senior analyst with Point Topic. “Getting to 400 million subscribers in the 10 years since then has been one of the fastest rollouts of a major new technology the world has ever seen. Now we're in the early days of a new era, which is going to be much more about quality than quantity.

“The emphasis is now going to shift to providing high-bandwidth, high-quality broadband that can deliver multiple, steady, pin-sharp images for applications. To do this, we've got to have advanced global standards for end-to-end delivery of broadband data streams. This is exactly what the Broadband Forum, working with other standards organizations, is doing, and we believe its role is going to be even more important in the next decade than it has been in the last ten years.”

According to a recent report from Nemertes Research, Internet demand remains at a rate that could outpace capacity within the next two to four years.

“Internet Interrupted: Why Architectural Limitations Will Fracture the 'Net” finds increasing strain on the Internet's infrastructure and predicts that by 2012, “this infrastructure may not be able to accommodate the exaflood, resulting in Internet brownouts.”

The Internet exaflood, or exponential explosion of online content, resulting largely from new applications, video and increasingly heavy Web use, is causing slower responses and time outs – and ultimately may trigger an "innovation slowdown," according to the study. If left unaddressed, the development of next-generation applications, from software to interactive video, will likely be stifled as users find Internet infrastructure incapable of efficiently delivering quality content.

"We still project demand to exceed capacity at the access layer of the Internet by 2012, and the situation is slightly worse than we originally projected in North America," said Mike Jude, a senior analyst with Nemertes Research.

According to Nemertes Research, the financial investment required to bridge the gap between demand and capacity ranges from $42 billion to $55 billion in the U.S., to be spent primarily on broadband access capabilities. This figure is roughly 60 percent to 70 percent above the $72 billion service providers already plan to invest.

The study also discusses how a recession could affect bandwidth supply and demand.

“The exponential explosion of content will persist during challenging economic times, but a prolonged global recession could starve networks of the necessary capital investment," said Bruce Mehlman, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance. "It's more important than ever to develop a National Broadband Strategy that will encourage investment and innovations that accelerate America's global competitiveness and address major national challenges, such as energy efficiency, health care cost and quality educational opportunity."

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