With the United States and China the two largest broadband markets in the world — with 54.6 million and 46.6 million broadband households, respectively — there were approximately 250 million broadband households worldwide at the end of 2006.
Yet sheer numbers do not paint the complete picture of global broadband development.
"Countries such as South Korea, Japan and, to a lesser extent, the United States are entering a new phase of broadband development," says Ben Macklin, eMarketer senior analyst and the author of the new Broadband Worldwide: 2005-2011 report. "The market is moving from the high-speed Internet to the very-high-speed Internet."
The process is well underway in South Korea and Japan, where broadband users are trading up from DSL (digital subscriber line) to higher-bandwidth technologies such as optical fiber.
Earlier in the decade, Japan instigated a policy to roll out optical fiber to homes across the country, and in 2006 there are approximately 7.5 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) subscribers, the greatest number of FTTH subscribers in the world.
"What does that mean?" asks Mr. Macklin. "It means that a typical Japanese home can access 50 mbps-100 mbps for the price of what most people pay for 1 mbps in other countries."
Like Japan, South Korea has reached the next phase of broadband development. ADSL is rapidly turning into the next "dial-up" technology as South Koreans upgrade their ADSL connections to fiber LAN connections.
In North America, broadband adoption has occurred even more rapidly in Canada than in the US, with eMarketer estimating that over 50% of Canadian households at the end of 2005 had broadband, compared with less than 38% of US households at the same time.
By 2011 there will over 100 million broadband households in North America.
"Greater bandwidth availability doesn’t merely represent technology and infrastructure opportunities — it is opening up a wide array of opportunities for online marketing and content distribution, too," says Mr. Macklin. "As consumers get more, they will want more, and that will be will be one of the key drivers of global broadband expansion in the coming years."