Blog Post

Globally, Now 400M Broadband Subscribers

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

[qi:009] A report prepared for The Broadband Forum by research firm Point Topic and released today says that there are now 400 million broadband subscribers worldwide. In 1998, there were only 57,200 subscribers — that’s growth of nearly 600,000 percent. I was there — chronicling the emergence of now-forgotten names such as Northpoint Communications and @Home Networks. There was a time when the U.S. led the broadband race. Today we merely follow.

DSL is still the most widely used technology, but fiber is rapidly catching on. In 2002, there were 18,000 fiber broadband subscribers — now there are 45 million. Whichever way you look at it, this is a massive achievement and the numbers show that broadband is the platform. Had it not been for broadband, we wouldn’t have seen the emergence of Skype, YouTube, and countless other such innovations. But it’s all coming under threat, thanks to the backward-looking policies of companies like Time Warner Cable (s TWC), Comcast (s cmcsa) and AT&T (s t), all of which want to put a meter on bandwidth — and with it, innovation.

We will worry about that another day. For now, remember: 400 million broadband subscribers.

12 Responses to “Globally, Now 400M Broadband Subscribers”

  1. @Andreas I like your idea of broadband users versus broadband subscribers. It would be hard to get the exact details on those numbers. If anyone really knows about these numbers, then maybe they can leave a link here in the comments

  2. One other thing – I just clicked through to the article about NewTeeVee and bitrates and compression. I do agree that companies will find ways to deliver video more efficiently, using less bandwidth. But if I accept your premise – that cable is just trying to protect it’s video content – then in order to compete and innovate it has to provide more of what kind of video the customer wants. That is more HD conent, Interactive Television, ect. – which also fills up space on the wire. I don’t think cable is about to roll over and surrender the video space. Besides, cable networks are optimized for the delivery of video in a way that IPTV (delivering video over the standard internet protocols) is not. We are still a long ways away from getting the same experience of watching an HD video over the internet as from cable tv.

  3. No meter on bandwidth? You would agree bandwidth is a limited resource, correct? So how can the major ISPs operate long term, as certain people consume more of this resource than others? In practice, if we keep a flat fee for unlimited bandwidth, most people’s connection would slow down which would hurt the emergence of new technologies like youtube and skype.
    Also, I’m curious how you think we are followers in the broadband race. Wimax was developed (and already deployed in some places) in the US.

  4. Would be interesting to see graphs of broadband subscriptions vs broadband users over time. In 1998 the number of users must have been 10-100 times higher than subscribers. Think of all the students who had broadband in their apartements and dorm rooms for free. And now ten years later people are starting to have one personal mobile broadband subscription, and a wired one that the family shares. It has been a wild ride, and at the same time it has just begun!

  5. @Curtis

    I think that is a much bigger wave and that was one of the reasons why I did the Mobilize conference to essentially get a better understanding of the wireless broadband and opportunities it brings to us. Stay tuned… for the fun has just begun.

  6. @Om,

    This is a great achievement, though I think we’ll see another huge inflection when the marketing of laptops with embedded broadband begins. This opportunity, combined with the emerging WiMAX (soon LTE) will lead to even greater adoption. I expect in a few years that we’ll see household penetration north of 80%.