DSL Heads for 60M Users

The number of DSL users worldwide has grown dramatically again in the third quarter of 2003, growing 73 percent to reach a total of 53 million, compared with 30.6 million a year earlier, according to researchers at Point Topic Ltd. (see Global DSL Grows In Q3: Report).

The latest surge follows significant DSL market growth in the first half of this year (see DSL Growth Explodes in 2003). This spells good news for alternative carriers such as SIP services specialist Vonage Holdings Corp., which relies on such market expansion for sales of its VOIP-over-broadband services (see Vonage CFO Sees Profits Ahead). It also provides opportunities for traditional operators to break new ground (see Qwest Jumps Into VOIP Hotbed).

The latest Point Topic figures show a quarter-on-quarter increase of 6.3 million DSL lines, with the research firm estimating that a further 8 million DSL lines will be activated during the fourth quarter (see table below).

Table 1: Total DSL Lines, Global
Q3 2002 Q4 2002 Q1 2003 Q2 2003 Q3 2003 Q4 2003
30.6 million 35.9 million 41.4 million 46.7 million 53 million* 61 million**
* includes some estimates ** estimated
Source: Point Topic, Q3 2003

While some markets are experiencing increasing uptake, particularly in Western Europe and Latin America, the research firm says growth is slowing in some of the more saturated markets, such as Japan, though incumbent operator NTT Group (NYSE: NTT) still added nearly 367,000 new DSL subscribers in the quarter to the end of September 2003.

Among the operators experiencing particularly strong uptake in Western Europe are France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE), which added nearly 400,000 new DSL users, and Telecom Italia SpA (NYSE: TI), which registered an additional 250,000 new connections. The Italian incumbent, which is facing stiff competition in key cities from startup FastWeb SpA (see e.Biscom Targets 800,000 Users and FastWeb Piles On the Users), recently won an award for its automated DSL provisioning systems (see Teenage TM Forum Makes Award).

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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