UK consultancy Point Topic is reporting that China and the US are currently neck and neck in terms of their absolute numbers of broadband subscribers, but that, at current growth rates, China is set to forge ahead and overtake the US to become the world's largest broadband market. Point Topic CEO, Oliver Johnson, calls it "a major milestone for China", noting that “launching people into space is spectacular, but having the biggest broadband market down here on earth means a lot more for building a modern, hi-tech economy.”
When broadband first surged ahead in China, some observers predicted that it would overtake the USA in 2006. But then, broadband growth in China levelled off, just as it speeded up in the USA. For 18 months, the two countries ran in parallel, with similar additions in each quarter. Then, trends diverged sharply in 2008. In the USA, new broadband additions fell from 3.4 million in Q4 of 2007 to barely 1.1 million in Q2 of 2008, while in China, new broadband lines suddenly rose from 3.5 million to 5.0 million over the same period. By the end of June, China was home to 76.0 million broadband connections, only 900,000 fewer than the US. This gap was smaller than the total number that China added in July alone, at some 1.14 million according to Chinese official figures.
“It’s not so surprising that the US has been overtaken in absolute numbers – after all, China has more than three times as many homes and people”, Johnson points out. “But the US has also fallen behind the leading European and Asian countries in percentage take-up of broadband".