If McDonalds can advertise, “Over 1 billion served” on each of its restaurants signs, then why can’t Comcast, Verizon, Sprint and the rest of the broadband world say the same thing?

Well, technically, soon they can. That after a new report from Strategy Analytics that estimates over one billion broadband global users in 2008. China and India seem to be the growth hot spots, as the study says that the vast majority of this growth will come from emerging markets, according to company analysts.

Strategy Analytics says that the Asia-Pacific region will lead the world in terms of total users. Subscription growth in the Asia-Pacific market is anticipated to be 27 percent in 2008. In total, emerging markets will account for over 60 percent of total broadband users.
“While DSL clearly remains the dominant access technology, we are forecasting impressive growth of ‘alternative’ technologies such as Wimax,” says David Mercer, Vice-President of the Strategy Analytics Digital Consumer Practice.

New technologies like Internet TV, MPEG 4, TV on PC’s and pervasive HD TV have fed the growth in broadband technology, which for the first time ever should surpass mobile technologies in terms of user base. Most of the growth in the broadband sector has been fed by video. According to SA, the first half of 2007 saw major changes in the availability and distribution of online video. More than 250 video start-ups have emerged so far, each promising a quality experience to the PC or Internet-connected STB.

Some interesting Internet TV technologies should hit the market in 2008. NBC Universal’s and News Corp.’s Hulu JV have already commenced private testing with select users. Hulu’s content includes full-length current and archived TV programming, as well as clips and an initial selection of feature films.

They’re not alone. Vongo, which launched its Vongo 2.0 in ’07; Veoh, which in June unveiled a beta of VeohTV; and Joost, an over-the-top video service that launched in May, all have ambitious Internet TV rollouts planned for next year.

On the HD side, Comcast is touting its proposed 800 new HD channels by the end of 2008. Direct TV, my home TV provider, already has about 50-60, and aims to have 100 by January, 2008. Verizon jumped into the fray with a goal of 150 HD channels on FiOS TV by the end of 2008.

I’d be careful about using HD as an investment play for a Comcast or a Verizon. Yes, it’s an amazing technology and I, for one, will never watch football or boxing on regular television again. Yet as HD is fueling growth in digital television markets, it’s a bit cannibalistic in a competitive sense. All the broadband providers can do is to use HD as leverage in not losing subscribers to another provider with more HD channels.

Still, the broadband market is blazing right now - - the golden age of communications is actually upon us. That should mean bigger profits – and more market share - - for broadband companies in 2008.

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Does this mean we'll start seeing higher speeds too? 1.5Mbps hardly cuts it these days...


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