China poised to take FTTx lead

China is on par to become the world's leading nation in terms of fibre subscribers by as early as 2009, attracting up to 18 million new subscribers in 2009 alone, and outpacing current leaders Japan and South Korea.

According to Ovum analyst Lynn Hutcheson there will be around 6 million FTTH/FTTB subscribers by the end of the year, with China Telecom capturing 80% of the market and China Unicom the remaining 20% - but that figure will more than double next year.

Hutcheson engaged in private discussions with China Telecom, three Chinese system vendors and two component vendors, which each quoted estimates ranging from 13 million to 18 million new subscribers in 2009. Ovum estimates that Japan and South Korea will have 17.5 million and 9 million subscribers respectively by the end of 2009.

"That would definitely put China in a leadership role," she says.

According to Hutcheson, operators and vendors believe the economic crisis will have little impact on the Chinese fibre market. "The consensus is that [the crisis] will have little or no impact on China's plans as it continues its quest for worldwide economic dominance."

FTTB dominates in China, and will continue to do so, accounting for 90% of all subscriptions. The remaining 10% will be FTTH.

And according to Hutcheson, 2009 will see the introduction of a new player into the fibre market.

"To date China Mobile has not participated in fixed broadband access," she says, "but following its success in the mobile market it has lots of cash and is interested in investing some of that cash in the FTTH/FTTB market."