In the UK, the countdown to the general elections has begun. Entering the debate for the first time is the digital economy and broadband connectivity. In Ireland in the next year, a key election issue could be broadband.
Dublin: 01.04.2015 12.52AM
Despite fixed line broadband jumping by 8pc by the end of last year, Ireland is trailing global leaders who have deployed sophisticated fibre-optic networks, according to the OECD. Only 1pc of total broadband subscriptions are fibre-based compared with 58pc in Japan, 11pc in Iceland, 26pc in Sweden and 12pc in Germany.
But we are not the only laggards. Spain, Luxemburg, Australia, Germany, Canada and New Zealand are all at less than 0.49pc while France, Switzerland and Finland are also 1pc.
Countries in Europe leading the fibre charge include the Slovak Republic (29pc), Norway (16pc), Hungary (12pc) and the Czech Republic (12pc).
Fixed wired broadband penetration increases showed the highest increase in Poland (24.8pc), Mexico (20.1pc) and Greece (16.8pc). Ireland now has 1.5m fixed broadband connections, up 8pc year-on-year.
According to ‘Government supplied’ data, DSL accounts for 16.4pc of Irish broadband connections, followed by cable (4.5pc) and fibre (1pc), while other connection types account for 21pc of connections.
In overall rankings, Ireland is 29th out of OECD countries. The US is No 1, followed by Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Korea, Italy and Mexico.
The OECD report says the communications sector has emerged from the financial crisis with a resilience and underlying strength that reflects its critical role in the global economy.
Growth in mobile broadband has been fuelled by inexpensive, flat-rate mobile data plans.
Korea is the leading country for wireless broadband subscriptions, with 89.8 per 100 inhabitants, followed by Finland (84.8), Sweden (82.9) and Norway (79.9).
Key factors in the sector’s continuing health include long contract durations of mobile operators, the growing popularity of bundled offers of television, mobile and fixed telephony, and the fact communication services are increasingly perceived as non-discretionary spending items. Households looking to cut spending seem to be economising in other areas, at least as a first measure, it says.
The increasing prevalence of bundled services has also played a role in this shift by reinforcing customer loyalty and reducing churn, which helped operators during the downturn. Bundled services may benefit consumers by offering lower prices and extra benefits, such as unified billing, integrated services or customer assistance.
But, the OECD warns, the complexity of some bundled offers makes them increasingly hard to interpret and poses additional challenges for consumers trying to compare prices and make informed decisions. In addition, bundling may make it harder for users to switch providers or drop a service.
The Outlook also highlights the growing importance of IPv6 as the stock of unallocated IPv4 addresses has nearly run out. It urges quicker adoption by industry as the only long-term solution able to ensure the capability of the internet to connect billions of people and devices.
Three new reports have also been released as background documents for the upcoming high-level meeting on 'The Internet Economy: Generating Innovation and Growth'.
The first examines 'National Broadband Plans' across the OECD area, providing an overview of common elements and goals in those plans.
The second, 'Next Generation Access Networks and Market Structures', focuses on developments in broadband market structures emerging from the deployment of high-speed broadband services and the policy and regulatory implications.
The third, 'Fibre Access – Network Developments in the OECD Area', examines the use of fibre to provide local access networks for the provision of broadband access.