The global broadband divide is narrowing but speed inequalities are widening

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Omdia’s Last Global Fiber Development Index predicts that by 2026, the percentage of the world’s population connected to the internet will increase from 58% to 70%, but even with the increase in access, there are fears that there will be growing disparities in the types of access that some users can gain.

Omdia created the Global Fiber Development Index in 2020, to monitor investments in fiber throughout the network.

It covers 81 territories and is updated annually. Beyond coverage and household penetration, the benchmark tracks and ranks all elements of fiber network investment, specifically fiber access, mobile fiber backhaul, fiber backhaul exchange and the overall fiber quality of service, which is currently measured by the overall average speed of the downlinks and uplinks.

The most recent study found that of the 70% connected to the internet, 30% of the population will access it via a mobile device and 40% will have a fixed broadband connection at home. The results of the full 2021 ranking showed that Singapore continues to dominate the index, followed by South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, China and Qatar.

The first European countries in the ranking were Spain and Sweden in seventh and eighth position. They are closely followed by Luxembourg and Romania. The United States leads the Americas region and ranks 18th in the world.

Yet the report also highlighted the fact that, like the digital divide connectivity closes, inequalities in speed and service widen. Omdia cited Latin America as a good example, predicting that 44% of the population will have access to fixed broadband services by 2026, but only 5.3% will have a connection delivering 500 Mbps or more, and only 1 % will have speeds over 1 Gbps. .

By contrast, in North America, the equivalent factors are 77%, 26%, and 11%, respectively, and in Oceania, East and Southeast Asia, they are 66%, 40%, and 10%. At the other end of the spectrum, only 9% of Africa’s population will have access to fixed broadband, with 84% of these users being limited to speeds below 30 Mbps.

Omdia noted that as a broadband access technology, optical fiber provides optimized, highly sustainable and scalable quality service. He stressed that more investment in advanced fiber optic broadband networks is essential to bridge this digital divide.

“Beyond the economic benefits, an all-fiber network has significant environmental advantages over coaxial xDSL and hybrid fiber networks,” said analyst research director Michael Philpot.

“In 2019, Telefonica said its FTTH network was 85% more energy efficient than its old copper infrastructure,” he said. “The operator said its FTTH initiative saved 208 GWh over three years, representing a reduction of 56,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. As countries move toward a greener future, fiber-based communications must be part of that plan.

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