The number of subscribers to UK broadband networks breached the five million barrier in September, according to broadband monitoring firm Broadband Subscriber Database (BSD).
With 50,000 new subscribers joining every week, the five million mark was reached mid-month. The majority of the connections – approximately 60pc – are based on DSL technology. Out of the three million DSL subscribers some 40pc subscribe to BT directly, with the remainder subscribing to an internet service provider buying DSL wholesale from BT.
Unbundling, which reduces operators’ dependence on the dominant carrier, has yet to make an impact in the UK and there were only 13,000 subscribers to unbundled DSL by the end of June compared to 730,000 in France.
BSB suggests that there will be well over eight million broadband customers in the UK by the end of 2005, about a tenth of whom will subscribe to unbundled DSL. The majority (5.6 million) will receive their service via DSL while 2.6 million will use cable modem technology. Overall, a third of households will subscribe to broadband by that date.
BSD predicts that in the next year or so subscriptions will grow rapidly owing to falling prices, voice-over IP (VoIP) launches and increasing competition from alternative broadband carriers. The falling cost of local loop unbundling (LLU) could be a key driver of an increase in UK broadband subscriber numbers, as has been seen in France, the research firm concluded.
This process is already happening with the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom recently announcing that it intends to slash the cost of shared unbunding to €3.50 a month. In contrast, ComReg has set Ireland’s LLU price at €14.65 for the next three years, the second highest rate in Europe after Luxembourg.
By Brian Skelly