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By the Numbers: The fixed-wireless mix

Does high fixed broadband penetration mean lower wireless demand? This infographic shows where countries sit when it comes to their adoption of both technologies.
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor

South Korea is often touted as the utopia for fixed broadband users. Service levels are fast, and penetration is close to 100 percent. Is it any surprise then that they fall behind many other nations when it comes to wireless access? Wireless is obviously being used purely for mobility. Still, with a combined penetration of 207 per 100 households (2G, 3G, and 4G services) it's a clear indication that many people want both.

Yet, it seems that there is some substitution occurring. Take Germany for example — 136 wireless users per 100 households, but just 69 fixed connections. As this diagram shows, Australia, Malaysia, and Italy also have high wireless usage, potentially compensating for low fixed broadband levels.

Conversely, in Canada, France, and Norway, fixed broadband levels are relatively high and wireless take-up is lower. Canada, for example, has much higher fixed broadband penetration than the US (0.78 per household in Canada versus 0.67 in the US), but it's the other way around for wireless (1.05 per household in the US versus 0.78 for Canada).

A question for Australia is whether the current high wireless levels are sustainable once the NBN is built. Will some degree of wireless substitution disappear?

Combined, each household currently has 1.94 fixed and wireless connections, already well ahead of Canada (1.56), Japan (1.71), France (1.79), and the US (1.72). Currently, Australia has a similar level of wireless connectivity as the UK — the NBN could help push fixed connectivity to UK levels (78.7 per 100 households), making Aussies one of the top five most connected peoples on the planet.

It sounds doable, but there's got to be a 28 percent increase in fixed broadband subscriptions for that to happen. And mobile penetration has to at least match the growth of other highly connected nations.

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