Steady broadband growth seen for Europe

Broadband service uptake has continued to grow in Europe despite obstacles posed by incumbent telecommunication companies, and is now entering a "third stage" of growth where advanced services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) will become more readily available to consumers, according to a study released Wednesday.

London-based research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics Ltd. estimates that Europe will have 33.5 million broadband subscribers by the end of this year, representing 20 percent of all homes. By 2008, 41 percent of European homes will have broadband subscriptions, the researcher said.

"The growth is being driven primarily by countries that have strong competitors to the incumbent telecommunication network operator, such as the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) -- which have big cable operators offering broadband services -- as well as Switzerland and Sweden, followed by Norway and Finland," said Martin Olausson, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.

Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium -- the countries with the strongest competition to incumbent telecommunication operators -- are expected to have most aggressive broadband uptake by 2008 with penetration rates of between 55 and 60 percent, Strategy Analytics said.

Those forecasts are in line with a similar study released by IDC last December, which stated that the number of broadband connections will grow from 13 million in 2002 and almost 24 million in 2003, to 63 million in 2007. Additionally, revenue will grow from US$4 billion in 2002 to over $27 billion in 2007, IDC said.

The IDC study identified Denmark as having the highest broadband penetration, ahead of Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Countries such as Germany, France and the U.K., while experiencing a steady uptake in broadband services, are still somewhat hampered by strong incumbent telecommunication companies, such as BT Group PLC in the U.K., Deutsche Telekom (DT) AG in Germany and France T

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