Growth in fiber-optic broadband knows no geographic boundaries, with subscriptions to high-speed networks growing by 13.9 percent worldwide from June 2012 to June 2013, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
While that’s an impressive rate growth, it varies widely by country. Mexico experienced the fastest growth rate with a 290 percent increase in fiber connections from 2012 to 2013. The United Kingdom followed at 172 percent, and Chile was 171 percent.
Unsurprisingly, the geographically small and tech savvy nations with high connectivity rates include Japan at 68.5 percent fiber-optic penetration and South Korea at 62.8 percent. The United States is in 14th place, with 7.7% percent.
However those numbers can be deceiving when you consider the number of broadband connections and the overall population.
“Though the US lags other countries in some areas — its fiber-optic growth was just 12 percent, for example — it leads the OECD in one prominent domain, the sheer number of broadband connections,” wrote Stephen Shankland in an article for CNET. “The US accounts for 299 million of the OECD's 851 wireless data connections, and for 92 million of the OECD's 332 million broadband connections using fixed lines such as those for DSL and cable TV.”
Fiber-optic penetration by country from 2012 to 2013. Source (News - Alert): OECD
One barrier to growth is the expensive and infrastructure required to develop high-speed networks, which is more difficult in large and geographically diverse nations. This is particularly true for fiber-optic lines, which are faster, but more unusual in the United States.
“Fiber-optic lines offer much higher data rates than the copper wiring that's more common for bringing broadband Internet access to homes,” Shankland continued. “Copper wiring is convenient, since it's typically already installed for phone and cable TV service, but fiber optics can reach longer distances and enable data rates of 100 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second.”
Fiber-optic links now are used for 15.8 percent of broadband connections in the OECD area, which includes North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and other developed countries.
While the supply of high-speed broadband is expanding, the demand is also increasing as more people connect more devices to the same line. Plus, the industry itself is poised to adapt high-resolution video streaming as faster speeds become available.
"When there is fiber to several billion homes around the globe a number of years from now, we will look back at today as only the beginning," a Netflix spokesman said to The Wall Street Journal.
Edited by Ryan Sartor