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DSL Adds 5M Subscribers in Q3

Despite adverse economic conditions, 5 million businesses and consumers signed up for digital subscriber line service (DSL) from July to September, according to new research from industry analyst Point Topic.

The gains pushed the number of worldwide DSL customers past the 30 million mark and delighted advocates of the technology which uses sophisticated modulation schemes to pack data onto copper wires.

"We are well on the way to our target of a global mass market of 200 million DSL broadband subscribers in 2005," said Bill Rodey, chairman of the DSL Forum, a consortium of 250 telecommunications companies including DSL heavyweights Verizon, BellSouth and Covad.

Asia-Pacific continues to lead the way with a 40 percent share of global broadband DSL subscribers, London-based Point Topic said. Western Europe has moved into second place with 24.34 percent share, edging North America at 23.84 percent.

At a country level, China, Norway and Croatia notched impressive subscriber gains in the third quarter. Korea continues to be the only country in the world with a "true mass market already in place," boasting more than six million DSL users, thanks, in part, to government support.

While DSL is dominant in many parts of the world, cable modems, the other popular method of obtaining high-speed Internet access, are about twice as common in the United States.

Most industry estimates peg the number of cable modems in the United States at about 15 million and service providers such as AT&T Broadband, Cox Communications and Comcast reported a surge in demand during the third quarter.

Another statistic that augers well for cable connection industry is the uptick in cable modem shipments to manufacturers. More than 3 million units were shipped during the third quarter, a 19.4 percent jump from the same period last year, according to Gartner Dataquest.

Point-Topic theorizes that cable's U.S. dominance comes largely from the fact that cable modem technology was developed here and standardized for U.S. cable networks, while DSL has been left largely in the hands of the Baby Bells.

Better execution, combined with an earlier start and good technical support are largely responsible for cable's continued penetration, the firm said.

But regardless of the method of broadband access, industry watchers agree that the transition from dial-up, or narrowband, Internet access will increase online activity. That's welcome news for content providers and e-commerce firms which are counting on faster downloads, and always-on convenience to boost revenues.