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Closing the gap: fixed broadband's role in global progress

In an era where global progress is increasingly reliant on digital connectivity, staying online is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Fixed broadband technologies, including fiber-optic lines, fixed wireless via 5G, and most recently Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite connections are driving the need to move from basic to meaningful connectivity, facilitating high-speed internet access and connecting individuals and enabling businesses and industries to thrive around the world.

Broadband: a necessary catalyst for progress and change 

Broadband is a critical driver of economic and human development. It acts as a catalyst for essential services such as education and healthcare, promotes empowerment, environmental sustainability, and enhances government transparency and accountability. Undeniably, the greatest potential of internet connectivity via broadband lies in the least developed countries, where it can unlock life-changing benefits, including:

  • Access to schooling: Fast and reliable broadband access is a game-changer in education. It provides access to online educational resources, interactive learning platforms, and virtual classrooms, ensuring knowledge reaches even the most remote areas.
  • Economic growth: By connecting entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small businesses to global markets, broadband infrastructure fuels e-commerce activities, fosters economic growth and reduces economic disparities. According to a report by the World Bank focusing on LatAm and the Caribbean, a 10% greater broadband penetration, on average, is associated with a 3.19% increase in GDP, a 2.61% increase in productivity, and more than 67,000 jobs. 
  • More ways to work: Wide broadband coverage enables remote work, transcending geographical barriers and expanding job opportunities contributing to a more equitable world.
  • Access to telemedicine and healthcare: Remote healthcare and telemedicine extend medical care to underserved areas, improving the overall healthcare infrastructure and reducing healthcare disparities.

However, the challenge lies in making fixed broadband accessible to everyone.

Broadband for all: achieving universal and meaningful connectivity

Approximately 2.6 billion people or one-third of the world's population, does not have internet access of any kind according to the ITU. Governments worldwide are taking action to provide universal coverage, ensuring that every individual, regardless of their location, can access the digital world. In developed countries, universal broadband coverage is mostly a reality, with the focus now shifting to providing high-speed fixed broadband to more households. Challenges do persist however, especially in rural areas, where it's costly to connect sparsely populated regions with the necessary infrastructure. In response, governments are actively supporting rural broadband development to bridge the digital divide.

Meaningful connectivity is a more nuanced approach. Going beyond measuring whether people have a connection or not, meaningful connectivity also looks at the quality of that connection, whether it is fit for people to actually make the most of their online experience.

The quest for universal and meaningful connectivity has gained prominence in the past few years driven by the UN's 2030 targets. There are, of course, a host of obstacles that need to be tackled — including affordability, infrastructure, skills, and safety. And barriers still exist even among those already connected , hindering millions from fully harnessing the potential of internet connectivity due to a subpar broadband experience. 

Understanding users' fixed broadband experience in disparate parts of the world

To make meaningful progress in getting people connected, you need to understand where we stand today. In our latest reports, we have provided the most comprehensive picture of users’ fixed broadband experience around the world, analyzing a broad set of metrics to gain a true understanding of users' real-world experience. These measures include Broadband Consistent Quality, Broadband Download Speed, Broadband Peak Download Speed, Broadband Upload Speed and Broadband Video Experience.

Our coverage of fixed broadband experience reports extends across a wide number of markets, including Brazil, Colombia, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Australia, the US, Canada, Italy, and many more. These reports shed light on the quality of fixed broadband services users experience in their everyday lives, informing the decisions of policymakers and service providers on how to deliver greater impact.

New technologies on the horizon 

As we have seen, a reliable, high-speed broadband connection is paramount. Several emerging technologies are shaping the future of broadband access:

  • Technologies like Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) are leading the charge in expanding broadband access, offering a future-proof solution for connectivity. We can see the difference FTTH makes to real-world experience in our report examining Italy, where users saw a significantly better broadband experience across all categories. 
  • Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) on 5G is gaining popularity, especially in bustling urban centres, providing high-speed internet without the need for physical cables. However, as we saw in our report on the US, the technology also has its challenges. 
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are shaking up the industry, offering the potential to provide internet access in remote and underserved areas. While the full impact of LEO satellites is still unfolding, they hold promise for closing the digital divide.

The journey toward universal, high-speed fixed broadband access is ongoing. We are committed to doing our part, by working with providers around the globe to help them efficiently improve the experience they deliver to their users, engaging with regulators and other bodies to monitor progress, and revealing the truth about Fixed Broadband Experience in our public reports so that everyone can participate in the journey.