The Asia-Pacific is still the world leader in fiber optic broadband. The superfast wired connection has around 69 percent penetration in Japan, while neighbor South Korea presently enjoys around 63 percent. Compare this to the 7.7 percent in the US and it becomes clear just how far ahead the region is.
Fiber broadband isn’t just a big thing in Japan and South Korea, the market is booming in other countries in the Asia-Pacific. In 2011 Ovum forecast that the world’s fiber subscribers would exceed 200 million by 2016, and that just over half of these would be in China. This estimate proved far too conservative, with China embarking on an aggressive fiber deployment strategy that will see it roll out a further 30 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections by the end of 2014. This has already brought the country’s total fiber subscribers to 200 million.
Singapore is another Asia-Pacific nation leading the charge, with four different ISPs offering 1Gbps fiber broadband packages. Provider M1 recently pushed the envelope further, introducing a new 10Gbps enterprise fiber service, the fastest in the country and aimed at Singapore’s thriving financial sector and cloud service providers.
densely-populated, highly connected
Demographics have underpinned Japan and South Korea’s success in fiber. Both countries are densely populated, making fiber deployments a lot more cost-effective and therefore much more viable. South Korea’s population density works out at around 1,300 people per square mile, versus just over 80 per square mile in the US.
Public policy has also played a significant role. In the 1990s the South Korean government put in motion a strategy to become an ICT leader, aiming to become a highly-connected nation with good levels of internet and technological literacy. To do this, it invested heavily in infrastructure and incentivized ISPs to drive the industry forward.
The South Korean government even encouraged subscribers to sign up for fast internet packages through subsidies that helped low-income homes get connected. There was a plan and the government delivered on it. This contrasts to the US, for example, which left broadband connectivity to the free market.
Governments in Asia are not just focusing on population centers. In 2010, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) introduced the National Broadband Plan, which is investing around $10 billion to deploy high-speed connectivity. This included establishing the National Optic Fiber Agency (NOFA) which targets 250,000 villages around the country. Rollout is expected to commence throughout 2014.
Ambitions are high: the FTTH Council Asia-Pacific celebrates ‘Gimme Fiber Day’ on November 4th each year – the birthday of Nobel Laureate and “father of fiber optic communications” Charles Kao – and has a target of FTTH to reach 500 Million by 2020 in the Asia-Pacific.
Outside of market leaders Japan and South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan all have extensive fiber infrastructures and Hong Kong providers have offered 100Mbps and 1Gbps packages for several years now. India’s fiber project alone has set lofty targets too: 175 million subscribers connected to fiber by 2017, with a view to extending this to 600 million by 2020.
Fiber to the premise (FTTP) is driving broadband growth throughout the Asia-Pacific region and it shows every indication of continued growth.