Asia sees strong broadband, IPTV growth

Broadband and Internet Protocol TV are clocking strong growth in Asia in spite of economic downturn, with China leading the way, according to Broadband Forum.

SINGAPORE--Broadband growth in Asia continues to surge ahead, in spite of the economic downturn, with strong contenders from emerging markets including Indonesia and Vietnam, according to the Broadband Forum consortium.

In a media briefing Tuesday at the imbX conference and exhibition, Broadband Forum COO Robin Mersh said Asia has shown "impressive growth", expanding by some 4 percent in the first quarter of 2009, over the same quarter last year. Citing figures from the industry group's latest global report, he said China is home to the world's largest broadband lines installed base at 88 million lines.

Global Top 10 broadband countries
CountryQ1 2008Q1 2009
United States72,581,92083,968,547
United Kingdom16,318,30017,661,100
South Korea14,970,77515,709,771
Source: Broadband Forum

Second on the list was the United States at 83 million lines, followed by Japan's 30 million. South Korea was the only other Asian country on the Top 10 list, coming in at seventh place with 15 million broadband lines.

In terms of growth, Asia's emerging markets registered some of the region's highest figures, measured against their smaller existing installed bases.

Indonesia topped the list at 142 percent growth, clocking 722,500 lines in the first quarter of this year from 298,500 lines during the same period last year. Other markets that achieved strong growth included India at 68 percent, the Philippines at 60 percent, and Vietnam at 48 percent.

One player that has its eyes on Vietnam is Pacnet. The telecommunications service provider this week announced its plans to move into Vietnam, eyeing the country's appetite for bandwidth.

But while these countries registered robust growth from a smaller base, China, in spite of its already sizable installed base, notably showed a significant 24 percent hike in the first quarter of 2009 over the same quarter last year. It grew 5.6 percent in the first quarter of 2009 over the previous quarter.

According to the study, Asia's broadband base grew 35 percent in the first quarter of 2009, over the same quarter last year. This figure is second to Latin America, which grew 36 percent over the same period.

"Early days" for Asia's IPTV
Meanwhile, IPTV (Internet Protocol television) adoption is seeing strong growth across most regions in the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and Latin America, which both expanded by 109 percent from first quarter-2008 to first quarter-2009, the Broadband Forum said.

Measured as a region, South and East Asia showed a growth rate of 91 percent over last year. Mersh said: "This region is at the early stages of IPTV [deployment], so growth is still exploding."

However, the overall Asia-Pacific region showed a smaller 14 percent growth rate. In particular, it was the only region to register a negative growth rate, dipping by 1.7 percent, in the first quarter of this year over the previous quarter.

Mersh said the negative figure was "an anomaly", resulting from an operator in South Korea dropping a lower tier of their IPTV subscribers. The operator added more services to its higher-tier customer base, while "disconnecting" the lower-price tier, he explained. This resulted in higher ARPUs (average revenues per user) but an overall smaller subscriber count, he added.

Mersh said the operator's ability to remove and discontinue lower-tier services to its subscriber base, while its counterparts in other countries are focusing on growing their subscriber count as a priority, "may be indicative of the maturity" of Korea's IPTV industry.

He added that the Chinese operators were most aggressively rolling out IPTV services, with China Telecom adding 250,000 subscribers and China Unicom adding 100,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2009.

According to Pyramid Research, the number of active IPTV lines in China is projected to grow from 2.2 million at end-2008, to some 6.6 million by end-2010, and a further 14.9 million by the end of 2012.

In a study last year, Gartner said the Asia-Pacific IPTV subscriber base will reach 8.7 million in 2012, generating US$3.5 billion in revenue.