According to two recently released studies, broadband access is surging in countries around the globe, and wireless broadband is riding the wave.

A study published by Gartner, a Stamford, Conn.-based research firm, projects worldwide consumer broadband connections to grow from 323 million connections in 2007 to 499 million in 2012. The report, “Dataquest Insight: Consumer Broadband, Global Penetration Rates and Growth Prospects,” found that worldwide consumer broadband connections penetrated 18 percent of households in 2007, and by 2012, households with a broadband connection will reach 25 percent of total households.

Five countries exceeded 60 percent broadband penetration into the home in 2007. This is expected to grow to 17 countries by 2012. According to the Gartner study, the high penetration rates seen in such countries demonstrate that small, denser countries, or countries with government-backed spending for broadband infrastructure, have an advantage. As a result, by 2012, these countries will have maintained their lead in broadband penetration rates.
Nevertheless, the study projects that the United States will close its digital divide significantly within the next four years. Just over half of U.S. households currently subscribe to broadband Internet services, but Gartner predicts the percentage will grow by more than 20 points by 2012. With a projected 77 percent household penetration rate, the United States will be tied with Japan for the fifth-highest broadband-penetration rate in the world.

Similar findings were published in a study by the London-based Analysys Mason, which highlights the role wireless will play in the broadband craze. The firm said that globally, 2.1 billion wireless broadband customers will generate $784 billion in service revenue by 2015. This revenue increase will be underpinned by continued developments in wireless technologies, improvements in devices and more flexible pricing options.

Developing regions will account for only 17 percent of wireless broadband customers at the end of 2008. But the lack of fixed-line infrastructure in these regions will bolster the growth of wireless broadband services, and developing regions will account for 57 percent of wireless broadband customers worldwide by the end of 2015.

According to the study, cellular technologies will dominate wireless broadband services, with 20 times as many users as WiMAX by the end of 2015. Also, WiMAX will be squeezed from developed markets by fixed and cellular broadband services and, by 2015, will serve just 98 million customers worldwide, of which 92 percent will be in developing regions. WiMAX will fail to achieve a significant share of the rapidly developing wireless broadband market, contributing only 2 percent of global revenue.

“By 2015, there will be 20 times as many customers for cellular broadband services as for WiMAX,” said Analysys Mason’s Alastair Brydon, co-author of the report.