Global gigabit subscriptions are expected to jump to 50 million in 2022, more than doubling from 24 million at the end of 2020, according to a new report from analyst firm Omdia.
"Demand for reliable broadband is set to drive growth in gigabit services, with fiber playing a key role," said Peter Boyland, principal analyst, broadband at Omdia.
According to Omdia (which is owned by Light Reading's parent company, Informa), accelerated fiber deployments are helping to drive an increase in gigabit connectivity. "There were fewer than 620 million fiber subscriptions globally at the end of 2020, but we expect these to grow to 719 million in 2022," with the majority of fiber subscribers expected in China, write the analysts.
"There were just under 618 million FTTH/B consumer subscriptions globally at the end of 2020, making up some 58% of total broadband connections. We expect this number to grow by more than 100 million to 719 million in 2022, or 62% of total subscriptions," writes Omdia.
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However, Omdia warns that service providers must "carefully consider market demand" for their gigabit strategies and make targeted investments in fiber.
"Service providers need to carefully plan and execute gigabit network rollout, analyzing a number of factors, including infrastructure challenges, market competition, and expected demand," writes Omdia. "But this does not stop with network rollout – operators need to continually monitor potential competitors and constantly innovate, refresh, and build service offerings so they stay ahead of rivals."
The analysts also point out the opportunity for vendors in the market who can help service providers build "future proof" networks. "Vendors can offer long-term solutions such as monitoring and automation tools to extend the operator/vendor relationship beyond network rollouts," the report recommends.
Of course, the other big driver for all this fiber and gigabit growth is the COVID-19 pandemic, which – soon to enter its third year – continues to stimulate demand for higher-speed broadband everywhere for everything from remote work and education to telemedicine and safe entertainment.
Indeed, the analysts say, what matters most to consumers is reliable service. According to Omdia's Digital Consumer Insights survey, 36% of respondents said they were more reliant on broadband services during COVID-19, and 55% of respondents said reliability ranked top among the most important home broadband features.
All of this gigabit and fiber growth will impact broadband speeds for years to come. According to Omdia: "In 2020, just 2% of broadband subscriptions were more than 1Gbps, but this is expected to double to 4% in 2022."
Further, the report says, subscribers with access to 500 Mbit/s-1 Gbit/s will increase from 15% in 2020 to 21% in 202, with 17% of broadband subscriptions projected to reach speeds over 1 Gbit/s by 2026.
Notably, while high-bandwidth entertainment like augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and gaming were thought to be drivers for ever-faster home broadband speeds in pre-pandemic times, Omdia's report barely gives these services an honorable mention for gigabit's growth, referring to them just once as "other drivers."
— Nicole Ferraro, site editor, Broadband World News; senior editor, global broadband coverage, Light Reading. Host of "The Divide" on the Light Reading Podcast.