162 million of the 226 million new Internet users in 2010 will be from developing countries, where Internet users grow at a higher rate. By the end of 2010, 71% of the population in developed countries will be online compared to 21% of the population in developing countries.
With the rapidly increasing high-bandwidth content and applications on the Internet, there is a growing demand for higher-speed broadband connections.
ITU considers broadband as a catalyst for growth. ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré says, “Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin long-term economic competitiveness. It is also the most powerful tool that we have at our disposal in our race to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the deadline for which is now just five years away.”
Over the past year, there has been strong growth in fixed broadband subscriptions. By the end of 2010, fixed broadband penetration will reach 8% globally. But penetration levels in developing countries remain low: 4.4 subscriptions per 100 people compared to 24.6 in developed countries.
Overall, the price of technology services is falling, but high-speed Internet access remains prohibitively expensive, especially in low-income developing countries. In 2009, an entry-level fixed (wired) broadband connection cost on average 190 PPP$ (Purchasing power parity in USD) per month in developing countries, compared to only 28 PPP$ in developed countries. The relative price for ICT services (especially broadband) is highest in Africa, the region with the lowest income levels. The region lags behind when it comes to broadband access. Although subscriptions are increasing, a penetration rate of less than 1 per cent for fixed broadband illustrates the huge challenges that persist to increase access to high-speed, high-capacity Internet.