Japan, Korea lead world in fiber-optic cable

'Big shift in the industry' seen in OECD study

AMSTERDAM -- Fiber-optic cable has become the biggest single broadband technology in Korea and Japan, which lead the world in the proportion of households connected to the Internet with super-fast links, OECD data showed Thursday.

The OECD's latest broadband statistics showed that Korea had 12.2 fiber-optic connections per 100 inhabitants in June, compared with 10.5 connections via cable TV networks and 8.4 connections using DSL technology over copper telephone wires.

The fiber penetration rate jumped from 10.4% in the previous OECD survey in December 2007.

"It's a big shift. There's a shift in the industry towards fiber, and we're seeing it first in Korea and Japan," OECD economist Taylor Reynolds said.

Korea's fiber penetration alone is higher than the overall broadband penetration in five OECD countries: Greece, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Turkey and Mexico.

Japan has a fiber penetration of 10.2%, followed by DSL with 9.6% and cable with 3.1%.

The only country to come close to Korea and Japan is Sweden with six fiber-optic broadband connections per 100 inhabitants.

Extending fiber into homes substantially boosts the speed of Internet connections, which can then also be used for high-definition television, VOD and other services requiring large bandwidth.

The most wired country in the world according to the OECD is Denmark, with a total of 36.7 broadband connections per 100 inhabitants, but most of those are DSL connections.

In Europe, many operators have been reluctant to hook up homes with fiber-optic access due to the high initial cost and have instead chosen a compromise. They will extend their fiber networks to street cabinets while keeping copper wires for the final stretch into homes.