At the end of Q2 2021, the number of global fixed broadband connections grew by 1.7% and stood at 1.22bn, with the quarterly growth returning to normal. As before, the extent of growth varied across different markets, with 16 countries reporting a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions in Q2 2021, up from 15 in Q1 2021. The decline was mainly either in saturated broadband markets such as Spain and Israel or those where mobile connections are the preferred way of getting online.
Other main trends in Q2 2021:
The share of FTTH connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to grow and stood at 57.3 per cent.
Fixed broadband subscribers grew in 88 per cent of the 131 countries covered in this report.
All but two of the largest 20 broadband markets saw growth this quarter, though in 15 of these markets it was slower than in Q1 2021.
China has surpassed 0.5 billion fixed broadband connections and is approaching the same milestone in terms of 5G connections.
The highest fibre broadband growth rates were largely in developing markets, with the UK, France, Italy and Germany also reporting quarterly growth at significant rates.
Global and regional trends
In Q2 2021, the quarterly fixed broadband subscriber growth rate stood at 1.7 per cent, with the number of connections reaching 1.22 bn (Figures 1 and 2). The growth rate was almost identical to that in Q2 2020 and Q2 2019, as broadband markets continued returning to normality after the impact of the global pandemic.
In Q2 2021, East Asia’s share of net additions of fixed broadband subscribers increased slightly to 63 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 Q1 2021, other regions except Asia Other and Africa saw their market shares decline slightly but the changes were insignificant.
In Q2 2021, the growth rate was slower in all regions, compared to the previous quarter, which was in line with seasonal trends. The differences were especially notable in Africa, Europe and Asia Other (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 3.8 per cent, Africa saw the third fastest growth among all regions in Q2 2021, though it came from a low base. Similarly to the previous quarters, the growth rate was highest in the less saturated markets of Asia Other where it stood at 2.7 per cent (Figure 7). In East Asia, with a relatively healthy saturation, broadband markets grew by 2.2 per cent on average.
Out of the largest 20 broadband markets all except Russian Federation and Spain saw growth this quarter. In 15 of the 20 markets the growth was slower than in Q1 2021, which is not unexpected given seasonal fluctuations. In Spain, the three largest operators Telefonica, Orange and Vodafone reported subscriber decline in Q2 2021, while in Russia Rostelecom lost subscribers for the first time. In both cases, FTTH subscriber growth was not sufficient to compensate for DSL subscriber churn.
Between Q1 2021 and Q2 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 57.3 per cent. Cable broadband connections followed with an 18.2 per cent share, down by 0.2 per cent. Copper-based (ADSL) and FTTx connections had 11.6 and 12.9 per cent shares respectively. The three latter technologies lost their market share to FTTH in Q2 2021 as consumers migrated to more advanced broadband technologies.
We looked at fibre 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 Q2 2021 were mainly in the developing markets, with the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany also reporting significant growth, similarly to Q1 2021.
In terms of FTTH net additions, China led with 12.3 million, while Brazil added more than a million and France almost a million fibre broadband subscriptions.
In terms of annual changes, between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021, the number of copper lines globally fell by 11.1 per cent, while FTTH connections increased by 13.7 per cent (Figure 12). Wireless (mostly FWA) connections also saw a significant 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 2016 (Figure 13). China has surpassed half a billion fixed broadband subscribers, having added more than 12.4 million connections in Q2 2021 (Figure 14). The country is also experiencing a dramatic growth in 5G subscribers, with more than 103 million added in Q2 2021 to reach a total of 495 million.
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.