The number of broadband digital subscriber lines (DSL) connecting users to the Internet grew 78 percent worldwide last year to more than 63 million, according to research from Point Topic and the DSL Forum, a consortium of DSL companies.
China led the way and now holds the world’s largest DSL market, with increases in North America — which has more than 11 million DSL subscribers — and Europe also contributing to a year of strong growth for the technology, Point Topic said.
While cable still is making solid gains, it is coming under increasing pressure — most significantly on price — from DSL broadband connections that are becoming easier to deploy, less expensive to offer and more powerful technologically, according to analysts.
“I guess this proves it — that what customers are interested in is a better price for broadband,” Meta Group senior analyst David Willis told TechNewsWorld. “If the providers can do that for them, they’ll see some very good growth.”
Point Topic indicated that 2003, during which ISPs introduced nearly 28 million new DSL lines worldwide, was also marked by DSL’s movement from a special feature in select countries to the norm across the developed world.
“There are now countries with high DSL take-up in almost every region of the world,” said a Point Topic statement.
“We are confident that the industry is well on the way to achieving the DSL Forum’s global target of 200 million DSL subscribers — 20 percent of all phone lines — by the end of 2005,” said DSL Forum president Tom Starr.
Continuing Cable Dominance?
Forrester analyst Lisa Pierce said that compared with a couple of years ago, DSL has grown at a faster pace than cable because the barriers of installation, ordering and customer service have been addressed.
Pierce told TechNewsWorld that new DSL capabilities have increased bandwidth, allowing the technology to compete more effectively with cable. The analyst said that although cable companies continue to experience good, healthy growth, their price points are higher.
Meta Group’s Willis said the DSL growth numbers illustrate the importance of price to consumers.
“People are really interested in better pricing,” he said. “Do that and they will move.”
Willis added that there are still concerns about DSL in terms of time and cost to provision, which the analyst referred to as a problem that is visible to consumers. He also said churn, or customer turnover, is a concern, but cable’s advantage definitely has been reduced, thanks to DSL’s lower price.
Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Imran Khan credited DSL gains with lower price and expanded deployment for DSL that is the result of increased line accessibility and a lifting of line-sharing requirements by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Khan told TechNewsWorld that although he expects cable will continue to lead in the overall number of broadband subscribers, DSL might have a technology edge because it is a dedicated line and makes it easy to add multiple users, whereas cable broadband can run into bandwidth issues in dense neighborhoods.
“DSL has a technical advantage because of that,” Khan said.