Britain still playing broadband catch-up

Despite the great strides made in the last two years, Britain still has fewer high-speed Internet connections per head of population than most G7 rivals

The UK's broadband market is still languishing behind many other developed nations when it comes to the take-up of high-speed Internet services.

Figures published by analyst group Point Topic on Wednesday show that the UK comes twentieth in terms of broadband lines per head of population, even though it has the eighth largest market for broadband services.

According to Point Topic, at the end of 2003 there were 5.39 broadband connections in Britain for every 100 people. This is only just behind Germany, which has 5.53 broadband lines per 100 people, but compares unfavourably with other major economies such as the USA with 8.71 lines per 100 people and Japan with 10.7 lines per 100 people.

South Korea has roared ahead, with 23.48 lines per 100 people. The South Korean government invested heavily in a ground-breaking policy to promote high-speed networks in the 1990s, and the country is still reaping the benefits.

The UK has been gripped by a broadband boom for almost the last two years. This has helped it to recover some credibility in comparisons against other countries, most of which are also enjoying buoyant growth. According to Point Topic, the European broadband market grew by nearly 35 percent in the second half of 2003. France, Italy and the UK all saw growth of more than 40 percent, while Germany lagged behind with just 16 percent.

"We believe this is due to the low level of competition in the Germany broadband market, including the lack of cable modem availability," said Tim Johnson, Point Topic principal analyst.

Point Topic found that DSL is now pulling ahead of rival services in terms of global reach. By 31 December, 2003, there were 64 million DSL lines installed worldwide, compared to 37 million connections via other broadband technologies.

As of 31 December, 2003, the US had the highest broadband market with over 25 million lines, followed by Japan, China, South Korea, Canada, Germany, France, the UK, Taiwan and Italy. This shows that broadband take-up is now closely linked to a country's overall GDP.

"The time when the market was led by relatively small early adopter countries is passing," said Johnson.