Broadband: For a bigger load

Spotlight on Information Society
OECD Observer

Broadband access is already widely available in the OECD area, yet not everyone is biting. Why?

Everyone has read about the benefits of broadband technology and if you have just opened this article online with a slow speed modem, perhaps you will want to read more. For the transition from traditional phone-internet communications to broadband is rather like the shift from propeller planes to the jumbo jet.

Broadband enables businesses to transmit more data faster from one location to another, thus helping them stay on top of their competition. Teenagers can download their favourite music or video, and rugby fans can watch their favourite try from the recent world cup finals. It is not just for entertainment, of course; doctors use broadband to send X-rays for rapid consultation, for instance. And for most of these users, broadband represents the first “always on” connectivity to the Internet.

With all these benefits of faster transmission speed of larger information volumes, there must be something we’re missing. Too many homes and businesses remain mired in the slow download age of first-generation connectivity, unwilling or unable to access broadband.

True, with growth of 53% over the past year alone, translating into 75 million broadband subscribers in OECD countries by the end of September 2003 and an estimated annual US$30 billion in access revenue, the significance of broadband is growing. Moreover, access is now available to three quarters of households across the OECD area.

On the other hand, with an average OECD penetration rate of only 6.6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, the potential for growth is still large. It is true that Korea has reached a mature market with over 70% of households being connected. But some countries have barely started service. The demand may be there, but often not the supply. Availability is uneven within countries too, particularly in rural areas. Yet the cost of upgrading networks to provide broadband is falling and a variety of new platforms are being deployed, such as in fixed wireless technology. In short, the general consensus is that while broadband is a rapidly growing technology, it has much more room to expand.

Such is the concern that not enough is being done to seize the opportunities broadband presents for economic and social development, that the OECD’s Committee on Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP) recently issued a statement calling for faster progress. It highlights the need for more competition in communication markets, for instance, and continued market liberalisation.

Government can only do so much to expand broadband use. The real lead has to come from the private sector, since a competitive marketplace is the best way to facilitate its growth and to maximise its capacity, the OECD statement stresses. This depends upon regulatory frameworks, like establishing safeguards against one firm controlling most readily available access, and a heightened culture of security to prevent fraud and strengthen networks against threats or breakdown (see article by Anne Carblanc).

The market for new systems is vibrant enough. New technological developments, in fixed wireless, mobile wireless, fibre to the home, satellite and even broadband through electric cables, are competing with more established DSL and cable technologies, which are themselves evolving rapidly. The capabilities of broadband and the demand for broadband services will no doubt continue to surprise us.

References

See the broadband statement at www.oecd.org/sti

For more on broadband, contact Sam.Paltridge@oecd.org

©OECD Observer No 240/241, December 2003




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • COP21 Will Get Agreement With Teeth: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría on Bloomberg

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.

  • Climate change: “We should not disagree when scientists tell us we have a window of opportunity–10-15 years–to turn this thing around” argues Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • In the long-run, the EU benefits from migration, says OECD Head of International Migration Division Jean-Christophe Dumont.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Unemployment
Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016