Head of the Telecoms Business Unit at IDATE
FTTH vs LTE: 230 million compared to 900 million subscribers worldwide by 2016
Although there were only 9 million LTE subscribers worldwide in late 2011 compared to 220 million FTTx subscribers (88 million for FTTH/B and VDSL alone), momentum is rapidly growing in favour of mobile. In 2016, IDATE predicts that the number of LTE subscribers will exceed 900 million, compared to nearly 230 million for fixed ultrafast-broadband (FTTH/B and VDSL).
During the Ultrafast- Broadband Conference, co-organised each year by IDATE and the Aromates agency, IDATE teams will present perspectives on ultrafast-broadband (UFB) expansion. These forecasts are based on our team's worldwide continuous monitoring of investments being made by operators, country by country, project by project, and the current number of subscribers by technology. The debate can therefore be based on objective data, on this day of exchange between all parties developing these key technologies aimed at growth in new digital uses.
Although there were only 142,000 LTE subscribers worldwide in 2010, by late 2011 that number had already increased to 9.3 million. "We expect that a significant share of LTE devices will support FDD and TDD by the end of 2013," stated Frédéric Pujol, Director of IDATE's "Mobile Network" Practice. Growth will also be stimulated by TD-LTE deployments in India, China and several other countries in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East, as well as in Europe, though to a lesser extent.
Overall, there is definitely an acceleration in deployments that we are following, which will result in a higher than expected number of LTE subscribers, as we now expect to reach the goal of 900 million subscribers by 2016.
For Europe, the situation is different:
- Take-off is taking longer than expected in Western Europe due to the late arrival of LTE smartphones and tablets using European frequencies. According to our forecast, Europe should have 150 million LTE subscribers by 2016.
- Smartphones for 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz frequencies have been available since March 2012 in Germany and Sweden. Sweden already had nearly 100,000 LTE subscribers by late 2011. The anticipated arrival of smartphones in early 2012 should certainly drive growth in LTE subscribers in Germany.
- For Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, it has been confirmed that the first deployments will take place by the end of this year for commercial release in 2013.
FTTx, still very different growth
The global market for FTTx access continued to grow in 2011. There were more than 220 million FTTx subscribers worldwide by the end of the year (with nearly 56% using FTTx/LAN architecture in China) with sustained FTTx growth of more than 25% in the second half of 2011.
Roland Montagne, Director of IDATE's "Telecom" Business Unit underscored the fact that "FTTH/B architecture remains by far the most common in Europe but not in North America (6.2 million VDSL subscribers but nearly 78 million households covered by cable FTTLA + Docsis 3.0) or Asia/Pacific (124.5 million FTTx+LAN subscribers in China). In late 2011, there were 77 million FTTH/B subscribers worldwide compared to a total of about 250 million homes passed by FTTH/B."
Changes in the UFB market over the course of 2011 was marked by divergent trends demonstrated by the number of FTTx subscribers compared to the number of homes passed by FTTx. Priority remains with ultrafast broadband coverage, to meet a potential significant change in demand. This worldwide trend, however, varies from country to country.
Japan remains the world leader in terms of FTTH/B subscribers, followed closely by China. But in terms of growth, these two countries are experiencing distinctly different situations. China appears to be much more active, with a growth rate of 44% compared to 6% for Japan between June 2011 and December 2011. And this trend will only get stronger because, in the preceding half, the respective growth rates were 14% and 5%. This trend could soon result in China and Japan reversing positions in the worldwide ranking of countries with the most FTTH/B subscribers.
Even though the majority of countries in this ranking come from Asia/Pacific, the United States remains in fourth place, with nearly 8 million FTTH/B subscribers. For FTTH/B, a few European countries are holding their own alongside Russia, the leader in this region with 4.5 million FTTH/B subscribers in late 2011.
France is climbing in the rankings and is now higher than Sweden, a leading country but now having difficulty convincing the remaining households to convert to FTTH. Nevertheless, France remains a country where UFB commercial policy is still relatively unconvincing.
Head of the Telecoms Business Unit at IDATE
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