Fixed Broadband Subscribers in Q3 2021
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
FTTH and cable edging out other technologies with 76% of the global total
Summary of key findings
At the end of Q3 2021, the number of global fixed broadband connections grew by 2.2% and stood at 1.25bn, with the quarterly growth being the highest in 2021 so far. As before, the extent of growth varied across different markets, with 13 countries reporting a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions in Q3 2021, down from 16 in Q2 2021. The decline was mainly either in saturated broadband markets with high household penetration or those where mobile connections are the preferred way of getting online.
Other main trends in Q3 2021:
Fixed broadband subscriber figures grew in 90 per cent of the 131 countries covered in this report.
The share of FTTH connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to increase and stood at 58 per cent. Superfast and ultrafast cable broadband connections followed with an 18 per cent share.
China added 16 million, Brazil almost two million and France just under a million FTTH broadband subscriptions.
The highest FTTH broadband growth rates were largely in developing markets, with the UK, France, Italy and Germany also reporting significant quarterly growth.
Global and regional trends
In Q3 2021, the quarterly fixed broadband subscriber growth rate stood at 2.2 per cent, with the number of connections reaching 1.25 bn (Figures 1 and 2). The growth rate was the highest so far in 2021, typically for the third quarter of a year.
Figure 2. Global broadband subscribers and quarterly growth rates. Source – Point Topic.
In Q3 2021, East Asia’s share of net additions of fixed broadband subscribers increased to 64 per cent from 57 per cent in Q2 2021 (Figure 3). This was mainly due to strong broadband connection adds in China. East Asia also retained the largest regional market share at 48 per cent (Figure 4). Compared to Q2 2021, North America, Eastern Europe, Europe Other and Oceania saw their market shares decline while they increased for Africa, America Other, East Asia and Asia Other though in all regions the changes were less than one percentage point.
In Q3 2021, the growth of fixed broadband subscribers was slower in the Americas, Asia Other and Oceania, compared to the previous quarter. The growth rate speeded up especially in East Asia and Eastern Europe (Figures 5 and 6).
Oceania maintained the lowest market share of global fixed broadband subscribers at 0.8 per cent. It was followed by Africa with 1.6 per cent. With the lowest fixed broadband penetration at 3.9 per cent of the population, Africa saw the third fastest growth among all regions in Q3 2021 (2.5 per cent), though it came from a low base of 20 million subscribers. The growth rate was highest in the mainly mature broadband markets of East Asia where it stood at 2.95 per cent and the developing markets of Asia Other with 2.92 per cent (Figure 7).
All largest 20 broadband markets saw growth this quarter. In 9 of the 20 markets the growth was slower than in Q2 2021, which is not unexpected given seasonal fluctuations in various parts of the world. Compared to Q2, Q3 growth was significantly slower in Vietnam (-1.92%) and Brazil (-1.88%).
Between Q3 2021 and Q2 2021, the share of FTTH connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow – it went up by 0.9 per cent and stood at 58.1 per cent. Cable broadband connections followed with a 17.8 per cent share, down by 0.3 per cent. Copper-based (ADSL) and FTTx connections had 11.2 and 12.9 per cent shares respectively, down by 0.5 per cent and 0.06 per cent. Cable, ADSL and FTTx continued to lose their market shares to FTTH as consumers migrated to direct fibre that is becoming increasingly broadly available.
We looked at 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 Q3 2021 were mainly in the developing markets, with the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany also reporting significant growth, as in previous quarters.
In terms of FTTH broadband net additions, China led with 16.4 million, while Brazil added almost two million and France almost a million FTTH broadband subscriptions.
Between Q3 2021 and Q3 2020, the number of copper lines globally fell by 10.2 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 14.4 per cent (Figure 12). Wireless (mostly FWA) connections also saw a decent growth of 10 per cent as these technologies are increasingly used where fixed broadband networks are difficult to deploy.
Top broadband countries
The top ten countries by total fixed broadband subscribers remain largely unchanged. Compared to the previous quarter, Mexico has pushed South Korea out of the top ten (Figure 13). China has more than half a billion fixed broadband subscribers, having added more than 16.7 million connections in Q3 2021. The country also continues to record a dramatic growth in 5G subscribers, with more than 128 million added in Q3 2021 to reach a total of 624 million.
Predictably, 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.