ITU: Competition Plus Regulation Responsible for Broadband Growth

  • Broadband Competition
  • Broadband Penetration
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Privatization of the telecom industry in many countries, coupled with regulation, has enabled the huge adoption of communications technologies over the last decade, says the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a U.N. agency.

According to ITU statistics, the first decade of the 21st century brought new information and communication technologies (ICTs) within reach of most of the world’s people for the first time in human history – a success story facilitated by the introduction of competition and the creation of independent telecom regulators across the globe. By 2010, competition in mobile and Internet services was available in more than 90 percent of countries. At the same time, the number of independent regulatory authorities grew from 106 at the beginning of the decade to 157 today.

The number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide grew from under 1 billion to more than 5 billion over the course of the decade, and the number of Internet users worldwide grew from under 400 million to more than 2 billion.

The following services have seen the strongest growth in competition over the past 10 years:
International gateways – competition now available in 78 percent of countries, up from just 38 percent in 2000
Basic voice services – competition now available in two-thirds of countries worldwide, up from under 40 percent in 2000
Leased lines – competition now available in three-quarters of the world’s countries, up from under 50 percent in 2000
Wireless local loop – competition now available in 82 percent of countries worldwide, up from 62 percent in 2000.

Twenty years ago, just 37 countries’ main fixed-line operators were privatized. Today, 126 countries’ incumbent operators are partly or fully in the hands of private-sector owners. Substantial differences remain between regions: 86 percent of European incumbents have been fully or partially privatized; in the CIS, the figure is just 50 percent. With many markets already privatized, privatization activity has slowed down over the past few years, especially in the aftermath of the economic downturn, with fewer interested investors and lower investment funds available.

Broadband as a Legal Right
By 2010, some 82 countries around the world – from Afghanistan to the United States, Australia to Malawi, and Chile to Slovenia – had adopted or planned to adopt a national broadband strategy. National broadband policies and plans are focusing on the benefits of building nationwide broadband infrastructure to provide public services online, including e-health, e-education and e-government.

More than 40 countries now include broadband in their universal service / universal access definitions – and in some countries, broadband access has become a legal right.


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