Broadband Internet usage is poised for an explosion in Europe, according to a report released today by Forrester Research BV in Amsterdam.

Penetration will grow from 0.2 percent of households in 1999 to an expected 18 percent of households or 27 million subscribers by 2005, according to Forrester analyst Lars Godell, author of the report.

Forrester defines broadband as Internet access at 128K bps (bits per second) or faster, said Godell.

There are relatively few true broadband providers today, he said, but that will change rapidly. "Because the bandwidth requirements will increase dramatically over the next couple of years," he said, "providers will be forced to increase their speed to at least 128K."

The report predicts a widespread shakeout, as smaller ISPs (Internet service providers) and startups are forced out of the market, and telephone and cable companies take over.

As a result, said Godell, access prices should sink below £20 per month in much of Europe by the end of 2002.

Scandinavia already leads the pack on the continent, and the report predicts the region will match the U.S. by 2005, with broadband reaching between 36 and 40 percent of households.

The Netherlands should come a close second with 28 percent penetration, followed by Germany at 25 percent and the U.K. at 20 percent, while France is expected to lag behind at 11 percent.