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Global land-based broadband uptake shrinks during Q4 2023

Canada and Italy had some of the slowest broadband growth and, in some cases, a reversal of adoption based on a decline in cable and copper connections.

Canada and Italy had some of the slowest broadband growth and, in some cases, a reversal of adoption based on a decline in cable and copper connections.

Technicians install fiber optic lines in a city.
Technicians install fiber optic lines in a city. (Photo by Mika Baumeister via Unsplash)

The number of customers buying land-based broadband Internet service experienced a slowdown during the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2023, according to a report by Point Topic.

The report showed the number of global fixed broadband connections reached 1.43 billion in the last three months of 2023, representing a quarterly growth of less than 1 percent.

It was the lowest broadband growth rate on a quarterly basis since 2019, and the first time the rate dipped below 1 percent since at least Q4 2021, according to data reviewed by The Desk.

Eighteen countries experienced a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions, down from 21 during Q3 2023, brought on by a higher penetration of fixed wireless services and ongoing geopolitical and economic turbulence.

The largest quarterly growth was experienced in developing countries like Burkina Faso, which saw 20 percent higher adoption of land-based broadband services during Q4. That country was followed by Mali, Kenya and Cote D’Ivoire, respectively, according to data released by Point Topic.

Canada and Italy had some of the slowest broadband growth and, in some cases, a reversal of adoption based on a decline in cable and copper connections.

In the United States, fixed wireless products chipped away at the pool of customers long enjoyed by land-based service providers, Point Topic noted. Charter lost 61,000 cable broadband customers during Q4, while Comcast saw its customer base shrink by 34,000 connections, Point Topic said.

Comcast, Charter and other broadband providers are seeing increased competition by small and rural cable broadband operators, as well as fixed wireless services operated by the three major telecoms — AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon — which offer broadband speeds over their 4G LTE and 5G networks.

The wireless companies have been aggressively targeting suburban and rural customers with a promise of fast download speeds, low latency and relatively stable monthly pricing, with plans starting around $50 per month at T-Mobile and Verizon. Customers are usually able to self-install all necessary equipment for the service, and the per-month price typically includes one leased wireless modem-router gateway.

While the United States experienced a severe slowdown in broadband growth, the country didn’t log a loss, with Point Topic’s research reflecting a 0.05 percent in quarterly growth on a sequential basis.

Countries that logged a net loss of land-based broadband subscribers include Brazil, China, India, Argentina, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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