UK finally Europe's top dog for broadband

After years of lagging behind other European nations, Britain can now boast more broadband users than the likes of France or Germany

The UK is now Europe’s largest broadband market, according to figures released by analyst firm Point Topic on Friday.

Point Topic reported that there are now 9.8 million high-speed Internet lines in Britain, compared to 9.7 million in France and 8.4 million in Germany, the second and third largest broadband markets in Europe.

This follows several years of explosive broadband take-up, thanks to lower prices and BT’s push to make broadband available to over 99 percent of homes. But the excessively high prices and limited availability in the early years of this decade meant the UK has been playing catch-up ever since.

Worldwide, the US is the largest market with 40.9 million broadband lines.

The UK’s broadband boom may have peaked at the start of this year. Point Topic found that Britain added just over one million lines in the first quarter of 2005 but less than 860,000 in the second quarter. In the third quarter, take-up reached almost 900,000, and an estimated 940,000 new lines were installed in the last three months of this year.

Point Topic also warned that Britain was lagging behind other countries in local-loop unbundling (LLU) — the process where rival telcos install their own equipment in BT’s local exchanges and offer competing wholesale services.

According to Point Topic, there are more than 2.5 million unbundled lines in France but only 122,000 in the UK — despite Ofcom forcing BT to make LLU more competitive.

LLU is meant to bring much-needed competition to Europe’s telecoms markets, many of which are still dominated by their incumbent, former state-run telcos.