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High-speed fibre overtakes DSL internet for first time in OECD countries

By Catherine Knowles, Tue 3 Aug 2021

High-speed fibre internet subscriptions have surpassed copper-wire DSL connections across OECD countries for the first time in 2020, according to new findings from the OECD broadband portal.

According to the organisation, the need to move work and home life activities online during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a record 21.15 million new fixed broadband connections (including fibre, DSL, cable and others) in the year to end-December 2020.

OECD's broadband portal highlights that fibre now exceeds 30% of fixed broadband subscriptions across the OECD's 38 member countries, up from 12% a decade ago, and is by far the fastest growing broadband technology.

In fact, subscriptions are up 14% in 2020 from 2019, outpacing a 5% rise in overall fixed broadband subscriptions.

While cable remains the predominant fixed broadband technology, accounting for 34% of subscriptions across OECD countries with a rise of 5.6%, in 2020 fibre began to steadily replace DSL subscriptions, which have dropped by 10% over the past two years.

Looking at specific countries, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Ireland, Israel and the United Kingdom all increased their fibre connections by more than 50% in 2020.

In more and more OECD countries, the majority of broadband connections are now fibre, with the share of fibre in total broadband above 50% in Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway and Portugal, and exceeding 70% in Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain and Sweden.

Overall, fixed broadband subscriptions in OECD countries totalled 454 million as of December 2020, up from 433 million a year earlier, and averaged 33.2 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

Mobile data usage soared by more than 30% on average in 2020 across the 35 OECD countries for which data were available, with 29 countries showing an increase of over 20%.

On average, users downloaded 7.5 GB of data per month per subscription in 2020, up from 5.8 GB in 2019 in those countries for which data was available.

In addition, mobile broadband subscriptions grew by almost 3% in 2020 across OECD countries. Mobile Internet penetration is highest in Japan, Estonia and Finland, with subscriptions per 100 inhabitants at 185%, 165% and 156%, respectively.

Data on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications show that Sweden and Austria remain the leaders in the number of M2M SIM cards per 100 inhabitants. 

Working with more than 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum with the primary purpose to promote policies to preserve liberty and improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.

The broadband portal can be viewed on the OECD website, with further information provided about each region and use case.

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