With Jeff Wray

With almost 80% of homes in the EU-7 (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and UK) having online access in 2013, Internet connections are a standard household component today in Western Europe. And as users demand faster connections to consume rich media content across multiple devices, broadband connectivity is quickly becoming the norm. The Forrester Research Online Access Forecast — Broadband, 2012 To 2017 (EU-7) shows that 72% of all EU-7 households had a DSL, cable, or fiber broadband subscription in 2012, well above the global average. But not all European countries show the same level of adoption. Within this group of seven, we can split the countries into three distinct groups of relative broadband development and adoption:

  • Advanced adopters. The Netherlands and Sweden lead the pack in terms of both broadband penetration and the share of broadband users opting for high-speed connections. Early and robust deployment of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks and strong cable offerings will encourage most consumers to shift away from slower connections, giving cable and fiber more than a 60% share of the home broadband market by 2017. Sweden in particular has one of the world’s strongest high-speed Internet markets today, with more than a quarter of all households enjoying a fiber connection.
  • Moderately developed. France, Germany, and the UK all maintain high online penetration rates and a competitive range of broadband providers; telecom companies have also invested in domestic fiber infrastructure over the past few years. Each country can expect a modest expansion of cable connections, more than 30% annual growth in fiber, and the beginning of a steady decline in DSL subscriptions.
  • Broadband stragglers. Italy and Spain struggle with their broadband and high-speed fiber connectivity and will see domestic DSL providers maintain more than an 80% market share through 2017. With the lowest online and broadband penetration in the region, Italy offers no mid-speed cable Internet services and has only mild fiber deployment. In Spain, economic headwinds in the most troubled nation in the EU-7 region, combined with the dominance of DSL provider Telefónica, have resulted in minimal planned investment in fiber infrastructure. However, while Spain and Italy are the laggards in Europe — with online penetration rates of barely 65% and broadband adoption of just over 60% in 2013 — both remain well ahead of Africa, Latin and South America, as well as most of the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

While the speed of broadband adoption in recent years has varied by country, we can see the same broad trend applying to each of the seven nations discussed above. Just as consumers have begun to demand regular broadband connectivity to enhance their online experience, online users will turn in the next few years from low-speed DSL to quicker connections, primarily ultrafast fiber offered by many DSL companies.