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most technology-driven industries, the telecommunication sector has
historically been characterized by steady growth punctuated by an
occasional leap forward, usually when a new technology is introduced. In
the latter part of the twentieth century, the almost simultaneous arrival
of two major innovations—mobile phones and the Internet—not only
changed the face of communications, but also gave fresh impetus for
economic growth. However, as these innovations reach saturation—in the
developed world at least—the search is on for possible drivers for a new
wave of innovation and growth.
the 2002 edition of ITU Internet Reports, “Internet
for a Mobile Generation”, we examined the likelihood that the
coming together of the Internet and mobile communications will provide a
major future driver for growth. This convergence of mobile and Internet
technologies still seems likely to come to such fruition, though the
indications are that it will take longer than expected. But in the
meantime, a new technology is emerging that promises to provide a unifying
platform for three converging industrial sectors: computing,
communications and broadcasting. That technology is “broadband”, and
it is the subject of this report. The title “Birth of Broadband”
reflects the view that broadband is still just at the start of its growth
cycle, with the main phase of market expansion still to come.
of the nature of broadband (you have to use it to understand the benefits
it offers), market take-off requires a certain critical mass of users.
Currently, around one in every ten Internet subscribers worldwide has a
dedicated broadband connection (see Figure 1, top chart),
though many more share the benefits of high-speed Internet access, for
instance, through a local area network (LAN), at work or at school. The
world leader for broadband is the Republic of Korea (Figure
1, lower chart), which is around three years ahead of the global
average in terms of converting Internet users to broadband. There, a
critical mass was attained as early as 2000, when prices fell below US$ 25
per month; from which point onwards take-off was rapid (see
Figure 1, bottom chart). Over 93 per cent of Internet subscribers in
Korea use broadband .
ITU World Telecommunication Indicators Database.