South Korea and Hong Kong are two of the top three markets in the world with the highest household broadband penetration.
Korea topped the Gartner study with 93 percent penetration in 2007, with this figure expected to hit 97 percent in 2012.
Next on the list are the Netherlands and Hong Kong, trailing Korea with rates of 74 and 76 percent, respectively last year. Although the Netherlands had a lower score last year, it was placed above Hong Kong in the list because it is projected to surpass Hong Kong in 2012 by a slim margin at 82 percent--Gartner predicts Hong Kong to hit 81 percent in the year.
1. South Korea
3. Hong Kong
5. United States
9. United Kingdom
Notably, the three markets are expected to maintain their global lead in 2012. According to Gartner, this advantage is due to their dense populations contained in smaller areas, coupled with government-backed spending for broadband infrastructure.
Another Asian country, Singapore, was eighth on the list, with a dramatic jump of 75 percent in 2012, from 57 percent recorded last year. Its government has been actively-investing in connectivity projects, from its Wireless@SG Wi-Fi hotspot initiative to the larger, planned next-generation national broadband network.
While these markets are nearing saturation, the next wave of growth will come from the Asia-Pacific region's emerging markets--the region will contribute the greatest increase to consumer broadband penetration worldwide, at 59 million added seats, said Gartner in a statement.
This market accounts for more than a third of the five-year growth mapped in Gartner's study; China alone will supply 25 percent of the overall growth in consumer broadband connections.
The growing digital divide
However, Gartner notes that the overall growth trajectory will not place emerging markets on par with currently mature countries, with regard to Internet use. Users in heavily-penetrated markets are "already addicted to broadband", and service providers in these countries are focused on delivering newer applications and content to them, said Gartner.
On the other hand, providers in emerging markets will likely be more concerned with increasing subscriber numbers and delivering a more basic level of service.
"Not only will the digital divide continue between the emerging and mature markets, it will widen by 13 percentage points," said the company.
A recent Frost & Sullivan study said broadband growth in the region is driven by factors such as the increasing popularity of online applications like video-on-demand and video sharing, multi-player online games and social networking services.
The study also projected 31.5 percent growth for the region overall from 129.7 million subscribers last year, to 171 million next year.
Gartner said newer wireless technologies such as WiMax will help attract subscribers.
Overall worldwide consumer broadband seats are projected to grow from 323 million connections in 2007 to 499 million in 2012.