Fixed Broadband Subscribers in Q1 2021
Updated: Jun 21
Summary of key findings
At the end of Q1 2021, the number of global fixed broadband connections stood at 1.2bn. Following a dip in Q4 2019 and to some extent in Q1 2020, during the next four quarters the quarterly changes returned to healthy growth. As before, the extent of the recovery varied across different markets, with 15 countries reporting a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions in Q1 2021, the same number as in Q4 2020. The decline was mainly either in highly saturated broadband markets such as Finland and Singapore or those where mobile connections are the preferred way of getting online, for example due to the local terrain or socio-economic factors.
The main trends in Q1 2021:
Almost two thirds of all net additions in fixed broadband subscribers came from East Asia, which also retained the largest regional market share of all subscribers at 48 per cent. Asia Other and Europe Other recorded the next largest shares of fixed broadband additions.
At the country level, fixed broadband subscribers grew in 88.5 per cent of the 131 countries covered in this report.
All but one of the largest 20 broadband markets saw growth this quarter, though in ten of these markets it was slower than in Q4 2020.
China added 13.4 million fixed broadband subscribers, with the majority of them being fibre based.
The highest fibre broadband growth rates were mainly in the developing markets, with the UK, France, Italy and Germany also reporting quarterly growth at significant rates.
Globally, between Q4 2020 and Q4 2019, the number of copper lines fell by 10.7 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 13.3 per cent.
Global and regional trends
In Q1 2021, the quarterly fixed broadband subscriber growth rate stood at 1.98 per cent, with the number of connections reaching 1.2 bn (Figures 1 and 2). The growth rate was almost twice higher than in Q1 2020, as broadband markets continued to recover from the impact of the global pandemic.
In Q1 2021, East Asia’s share of net additions of fixed broadband subscribers was 61 per cent (Figure 3). This was mainly due to strong broadband connection adds in China. East Asia retained the largest regional market share of net additions as well at 48 per cent (Figure 4). Compared to Q4 2020, all other regions saw their market shares decline slightly but the changes were insignificant.
In Q1 2021, the growth rate in five out of eight regions was slower compared to the previous quarter. The differences were especially notable in the America Other as a result of negative growth in Brazil (Figures 5 and 6).
Oceania maintained the lowest market share of global fixed broadband subscribers at 0.9 per cent. It was followed by Africa with 1.6%. With the lowest fixed broadband penetration at 3.7 per cent, Africa saw the second fastest growth in Q1 2021, though it came from a low base. Similarly to the previous quarters, the growth was highest in the less saturated markets of Asia Other (Figure 7).
Out of the largest 20 broadband markets all except Brazil saw growth this quarter as demand for broadband continued. In ten of the 20 markets the growth was slower than in Q4 2020, which is in line with the usual seasonal trends.
Between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021, the share of FTTH connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow – it went up by 0.8 per cent and stood at 56.4 per cent. Cable broadband connections followed with an 18.4 per cent share, down by 0.2 per cent. Copper-based (ADSL) and FTTx connections had 12.2 and 13 per cent shares respectively. ADSL market share further deteriorated in Q1 2021 as consumers migrated to more advanced broadband technologies. Copper based connections still dominate in Africa, while cable is the prevalent technology in the Americas and FTTH has the largest market share in Asia.
We looked at the FTTH growth rates in the largest fibre markets with at least 0.5m fibre broadband connections. At the country level, the highest direct fibre growth rates in Q1 2021 were mainly in the developing markets, with the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany also reporting significant growth.
In terms of FTTH net additions, China led with 13.4 million, while France added more than a million fibre broadband subscriptions.
In terms of annual changes, between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021, the number of copper lines globally fell by 10.7 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 13.3 per cent (Figure 12). Wireless (mostly FWA) and satellite connections saw a healthy growth as these technologies are increasingly used to cover broadband ‘white spots’.
Top broadband countries
The top ten countries by total fixed broadband subscribers remained unchanged since Q2 2016 (Figure 13). China, which is approaching half a billion fixed broadband subscribers, added more than 13 million fixed connections in Q1 2021 (Figure 14), up from 7 million in Q4 2020. At the same time, the country is experiencing a dramatic growth in 5G subscribers, with more than 140 million added in Q1 2021, which is expected to slow down the growth of fixed broadband connections.
As one would expect, the smallest and well developed economies are among the top ten countries by fixed broadband penetration.
 It is possible there will be restatements in the coming quarter/s and single period data should be viewed in that light.