The world’s broadband population has passed 500 million, or one in every five households, according to the Broadband World Forum.
However, the ITU says take-up is heavily skewed to the developing world, where 30% of people have broadband, while in the world’s poorest nations adoption is below 1%.
Research firm Point Topicsaid the world broadband population reached 498 million at the end of June, up 12% in the past 12 months, and would have passed the 500 million mark in mid-July.
It said China remains the “powerhouse of global broadband,” accounting for 43% of net broadband additions in the second quarter. Western European markets such as Germany, the UK and Italy rebounded with strong numbers after last year’s anemic growth, while Central and South America grew 5%-7%.
Broadband Forum CEO Robin Mersh described the numbers as “an extremely significant milestone,” that reflects “the critical importance of broadband in our daily lives.”
But an ITU report on broadband and development said the high cost of broadband had stifled its growth.
While subscribers in North America or western Europe paid less than 1% of average national monthly income for a fast broadband connection, in least-developed countries such as Ethiopia or Malawi customers pay “many times an average monthly salary” for even a slow broadband service, the report said.
“Affordability has a clear and direct correlation to take-up, so that while around 30% of people in the highly ‘wired’ countries of Western Europe, Oceania and North America have a broadband subscription, in BRIC countries penetration is modest at around 10%, and in the world’s poorest nations broadband reaches less than 1% of the population.”
The report was released at an ITU event in New York, held as part of the UN leaders’ meeting to review the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.
ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré called on global leaders to ensure that more than half of the world’s population has access to broadband by 2015 and to make access to high-speed networks a basic civil right.