Iceland takes over from Korea as Broadband Champ

Posted on April 14, 2006  /  5 Comments

OECD Broadband Statistics, December 2005

  • In December 2005, four countries (Iceland, Korea, the Netherlands and Denmark) led the OECD in broadband penetration, each with more than 25 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.
  • Iceland now leads the OECD with a broadband penetration rate of 26.7 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.
  • Korea’s broadband market is advancing to the next stage of development where existing subscribers switch platforms for increased bandwidth. In Korea, fibre-based broadband connections grew 52.4% during 2005. This switchover effect is evident by the net loss of DSL (-3.3%) and cable (-1.7%) subscribers during the year.


  1. Once a Korean researcher asked me whether I know what made it the broadband champ. Why not Japan? Why not US? I did not know the reason. (I’ve never been to Korea) Then she explained it was largely due to the Korean way of living. In Korea, she explained (I am not hundred percent sure about it, anyway) people live concentrated in cities and that too mostly in apartment buildings. (Not in single houses) So it makes easy to lay the cables. It always makes it more difficult to lay cables when people live in individual houses. Perhaps she is correct.

    The interesting point is if we ever want to introduce broadband to any South Asian country at that level, the only way we can think is using WiFi. Laying cables is a costly affair here.

    Perhaps Iceland has the same advantage Korea had.

  2. According to the OECD generated figures that can be very easily accessed at the URL above, this thesis does not apply on the face to Iceland. OECD gives broadband penetration and population density in a single graph: Korea is the highest, while Iceland is among the lowest.

    But the method could be at fault. Many countries like Finland and Canada have low population densities, but in actual fact most of the population lives in highly concentrated urban agglomerations. So the density depends on what unit you use: the square km of the entire country or the areas where people actually live? points out that depending on how you count (including Northern and Eastern Provinces or not), Sri Lanka has the 11th or 5th highest population density in the world (excluding micro/city states). So the conclusion that wireless is the solution is not that solid, I’d think.

  3. When people live in apartment buildings/flats cabling is easy. Most of the times cabling can be done during the construction. So no additional work to be done if a tenant needs a broadband connection. Just plug and play. (and pay!)

    On the other hand when the houses are apart the cabling should be done individually. This involves time, cost and most importantly so many procedures. Perhaps this is why Cable TV is still not too popular in Sri Lanka. Cable TV was there in the metros of India since early 1990s. Why it took so much time to come here?

    Even rural electrification is not a hundred percent success in Sri Lanka (and India too) Most of the times it is not economical to provide electricity to rural houses in the remote areas from the national grid. The cost of cabling is hardly justified, but anyway they are provided electricity for political reasons. (If CEB tires something like Micro Hydro or Wind power to electrify small pocket villages away from national network, that will be more logical.)

    Should there be a fiber link to every house? A centre point in a village or town gets the fiber connection and then the house in the vicinity can be connected to that node through WiFi. A model worth trying. Might not be hundred percent perfect, but will be a better alternative than cabling in many cases.

    Why people have to wait for years and years to get a telephone connection from SLT sometime before? It was largely due to the difficulties (both financial and economical) in expanding SLT’s cable network.

    Why CDMA was so popular and became an instant hit? Because there were no problems about cabling, and getting a connection (most of the times, irrespective of the location) was hassle-free.

    There are so many wireless technologies/models and it is a pity that most of them have not been tried in anywhere in South Asia yet.

    Perhaps someone can explain why wireless is so popular in Indonesia? Is it purely because of the high cost of the leased lines or are there any other reasons as well?

  4. Wireless:
    -Is it true that you can “steal” a neigbour-connecction instead of buying one? And if that’s true does it really reduces the connection’s speed per user? at what rate?
    -Does it need antennas or something?
    -And the cable thing you say, what technolgy do you mean?

  5. @ samarajiva

    Even though Scandinavian countries (Iceland) and Candana have huge land mass with little population, their citizens mostly resides in urban areas creating a dense environment where operator can lay fiber to the promise profitably.

    – Due to the sheer density of South Asian cities, I think operators can also lay fiber profitably too, without relying on wifi. We just have to wait until the average South Asian Urbanites to increase their GDP per capita.