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Chapter Highlights from ITU Internet Reports 2003: Birth of Broadband

Chapter Six:  Promoting Broadband

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It is one thing to perceive the pressing need to promote broadband, and another to engage actively and successfully in its promotion.

In reality, there is more than one answer to the question of why it is worth promoting broadband. On a general level, analysis consistently shows that economies that actively pursue promotion of new technologies most often fare better in terms of access, economic gain and technological impact. Broadband is no exception to this. Analysis also shows that consumers often remain ignorant about the benefits they might gain by switching to broadband, and need some convincing of what is in it for them.

For governments, broadband is a way of promoting economic development and certain social benefits. For instance, in the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong, China, which are currently the leading broadband economies, telecommunication expenditure as a percentage of GDP grew up to three times faster in the last ten years than the global average. As many countries have also experienced, broadband can also facilitate the provision of public services, such as e-learning, e-health and e-government.

For telecommunication companies, broadband offers a route to offset the current slowdown in the industry. In the Republic of Korea, the average revenue per user (ARPU) for a broadband user is up to seven times higher than for a narrowband user. For consumers, broadband makes possible a much wider and richer range of applications, especially when higher speed services are available. For instance, in a user survey in Japan, 70 per cent of users reported that broadband had increased their usage of the Internet. And in Iceland, some 40 foreign television channels are broadcast over the broadband network, greatly widening the choice of services available. 

For businesses, in particular small- and medium-sized enterprises, broadband brings the advantages of access to high-speed communications, and the ability to reach a worldwide audience that were previously only available to larger companies. Broadband also adds flexibility to the workplace through teleworking and remote network access at fast speeds.

Prices play perhaps the most important role in promoting broadband demand. Successful broadband economies are characterized by low prices—typically as a result of flourishing competition and innovative pricing schemes that attract a wide variety of customers. As price plays such a vital role in users’ adoption decisions, it is vital to understand how policies that reduce prices increase broadband penetration.

It is one thing to perceive the pressing need to promote broadband, however, and another to engage in its promotion actively and with success. This is where the experiences of economies that have done so provide valuable keys to what works, and what doesn’t. For broadband growth and development, success factors vary from country to country. One thing that is clear though, is that those countries that tackle both supply and demand issues have had most success in raising availability of broadband and in the quality and choice of services. Judging from the experience of the most successful broadband economies, a proactive approach to broadband promotion is certainly one of the keys to success. Box 2 on Estonia, describes its successful broadband promotion strategy in schools.

Box 2: Estonia: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Broadband in education: Far-reaching benefits

Estonia launched the Tiger Leap National Programme in 1996 in an effort to make a developmental leap by introducing information and communication technologies (ICT) into secondary schools. The targets were to achieve the ratio of one PC per 20 students, an Internet connection to each school, and basic computer training for all teachers. Today, the programme has accomplished most of its goals. Through Tiger Leap, 75 per cent of all Estonian schools have broadband Internet connections and the remaining schools have a dial-up option. More than 63 per cent of teachers have received training courses, acquired basic computer skills, and have been given guidance in using contemporary ICTs in teaching.

Investment in IT education and the promotion of broadband access in Estonian schools has been a significant factor in spreading the use of ICTs more broadly, beyond the boundaries of the education system. The programme has attracted considerable backing from local governments, the private sector and international investors, and has helped to shape Estonia's progressive reputation. Today, 35 per cent of the Estonian population uses the Internet, 38 per cent uses personal computers, and 18 per cent have their own home computers. Furthermore, 90 per cent of government agencies’ computers are connected to the Internet. These figures place Estonia as the leader in usage of IT in upper-middle income countries (see chart). Estonia’s broadband penetration (at 3.4 subscribers per 100 inhabitants in 2002) ranks it among the world leaders.

Some six years after the introduction of Tiger Leap, a new generation of Estonians, accustomed to fast information access and equipped with ICT skills, is reaching university level. As these students grow older and continue to demand fast access to information in different areas of their lives, the demand for ICT-related competence can be expected to continue its rapid growth.

Source: International Bureau of Education (2002); NDP Estonia (2002)

Note: 2002 Internet users data in italics are estimated figures.

Relevant links

ITU Country Case Studies on Broadband   

ITU New Initiatives Workshop on Promoting Broadband

ITU New Initiatives Workshop on Regulatory Implications of Broadband



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