updated 9/19/2006 9:54:56 AM ET 2006-09-19T13:54:56

Worldwide use of DSL technology for broadband access rose 38 percent to around 164 million users in the year to June 30, 2006 boosted by strong growth in the European Union, industry trade group said Tuesday.

In EU countries, roughly 18 million new DSL users were added in those 12 months, an increase of 45 percent, bringing the total to 56 million, and making up slightly more than one-third of the global total.

The figures were announced by the industry group DSL Forum, which is holding a quarterly meeting of the in Athens.

Use of DSL, or digital subscriber line, has accelerated in the last few years as advances in technology have driven down prices and allowed greater services to be offered over existing telephone lines.

"Sustained global growth in DSL is founded on leveraging the existing telecommunications infrastructure," Michael Brusca, head of the DSL Forum, said.

"The performance and quality of broadband services with DSL keeps on getting better and better."

In North America, where cable television penetration is widespread, slightly more than half of broadband subscribers use cable television lines.

However, in the year to June, DSL use rose faster than cable modem subscriptions and overall, the market rose 31 percent to 26.7 million users.

In the Asia-Pacific region, DSL use rose 9.5 percent to 29.8 million users, while in South and Southeast Asia, the number of users rose 57 percent to 36.2 million, due largely to 11.6 million new subscribers in China.

Latin America added 3 million subscribers for a total of 8.06 million and the Middle East and Africa added 1.75 million for a total of around 3.8 million.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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