The COVID-19 pandemic has created a heightened need for reliable broadband networks that can shift data traffic at breakneck speeds in a consistent manner.
According to Light Reading sister company Omdia, this is all feeding into the increasingly widespread provision of broadband services with extremely high download speeds and very low latency.
In a new report, titled "2021 Trends to Watch: Gigabit Broadband," Omdia said Gigabit services are now widespread, with over 300 service providers across all major regions offering at least 1 Gbit/s download speeds.
What's more, Omdia has seen a steady increase in 10 Gbit/s operators from 29 in 2019 to 36 in 2020.
The analyst firm now expects 10 Gbit/s services to expand as a means of differentiation and competition against 5G fixed-mobile substitution (FMS), new fiber entrants and cable networks upgraded to DOCSIS 3.1.
However, as Gigabit services become more mainstream, Omdia warned that quality of service is more important and noted that reliable and stable connectivity is at the forefront of consumers' digital needs in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
"Many operators have acknowledged this and are now offering advanced QoE solutions such as smart Wi-Fi solutions as part of their service either included in the price of the package (such as TIM Italy and Bell Canada) or for an additional fee (such as BT and Comcast)," the report said.
Alzbeta Fellenbaum, principal analyst for broadband at Omdia, also said that despite the increased use of broadband services during the pandemic, consumer demand is not yet driving gigabit services.
"Instead, they are used by alternative providers to either disrupt the market and gain market share or as a defensive play by established providers to fend off competition," Fellenbaum said, pointing to providers such as Waoo in Denmark and Hyperoptic in the UK.
Others are partnering with wholesale and open access network providers, such as Open Fiber in Italy and Swiss FiberNet in Switzerland.
"While the reach of most of these operators has so far remained limited, they create enough market disruption to force the established market players to react. Omdia expects this trend to accelerate with alternative players attracting investment opportunities from various new investors such as private equity funds and other debt lenders," Fellenbaum said.
Fellenbaum also noted that full-fiber networks are increasingly becoming the preferred solution for operators.
"Even in countries where operators have traditionally focused on legacy network upgrades, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for reliable and future proof networks, which will result in acceleration of fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) deployments," she said.
Looking ahead to 2025, Omdia predicts that consumer broadband offers with download speeds of less than 100 Mbit/s will decline, and average download speeds in leading countries will exceed 500 Mbit/s.
Omdia expects more than 187 million gigabit broadband subscribers worldwide by 2025, representing 16% of all consumer fixed broadband subscriptions. Most of these subscriptions will be in China, followed by the US, South Korea and Japan.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading