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State of the Internet: The broadband future is faster, but still unevenly distributed

We may not be a gigabit nation yet when it comes to broadband, but the latest data from Akamai (s akam) shows that the the number of broadband connections over 10 Mbps — what Akamai dubs “high broadband” has grown by 73 percent from the third quarter of 2011 to the third quarter of 2012. The country has also see a 20 percent overall increase in average speed  to 7.2 Mbps over the past year, but the number of people who have adopted broadband (measured at anything above 4 Mbps) was 62 percent, which puts the U.S. at No. 12 in the worldwide rankings when it comes to adoption and No. 9 when it comes to average speeds.


The rest of the world is faring well, too, in terms of boosting speeds. The fastest countries in the world when measured by average speeds are South Korea and Japan. And as you can see from the chart below, South Korea has managed to get over half of its population buying speeds of 10 Mbps or more. The U.S. is more in line with the global average, but has seen a significant boost in “high” broadband adoption.


What the latest version of the Akamai report shows is how much difference there can be in broadband quality even within countries. It also illustrates the difference in speeds between wireline and mobile connection (only seven mobile carriers even provide Akamai’s 4 Mbps definition of broadband). As our own country attempts to build out gigabit cities near universities — or in at least one city in every state — it’s worth pointing out that the future is clearly here in terms of faster broadband, but it’s unevenly distributed among the types of broadband and within countries.

As a side note, Google(s goog) Fiber, the gigabit network built in Kansas City (both in Missouri and Kansas sides of town), was perhaps the biggest broadband story of 2012 but doesn’t have a direct impact yet on Akamai’s third quarter numbers in terms of speeds. The first Google Fiber deployment occurred during the fourth quarter, with the launch happening in the third. Yet Kansas saw both a boost in broadband adoption as well as higher average connection speeds that grew to 5.5 Mbps.

Some more fun facts about worldwide connectivity from the report:

  • China is still the No. 1 origination country for attack traffic from a quarter-to-quarter basis. It saw a marked increase in the percentage of attack traffic, such as hacking –from 16 percent in the second quarter to 33 percent in the third. In contrast the U.S., which holds the No. 2 spot for origination of attacks saw its attack traffic rise from 12 percent in the second quarter to 13 percent in the third. See other origination countries below:
  • SOTIQ3security

  • Hong Kong’s 54.1 Mbps average peak connection speed (an average of the highest speeds in the country and inclusive of “speed boosting technologies”) in the third quarter marks the first time that an average peak connection speed has exceeded 50 Mbps.
  • The average peak connection speed in India has increased nearly 140 percent since the third quarter of 2007, while China’s has increased nearly 250 percent over the same period. In comparison, the U.S. has seen its average peak connection speeds increase by 200 percent during that time frame.
  • In the mobile world, only seven providers had average connection speeds in the “broadband” (greater than 4 Mbps) range. None of them were in the U.S. Akamai doesn’t name carriers, only listing them by country.
  • An additional 68 mobile providers had average connection speeds greater than 1 Mbps in the third quarter.
  • Average speeds of mobile connections measured from three U.S. providers topped out 2.7 Mbps, and the peaks topped 9.8 Mbps at one provider.

11 Responses to “State of the Internet: The broadband future is faster, but still unevenly distributed”

  1. Richard Bennett

    Stacey, it’s important to read the Akamai report carefully if you want to make claims about the speed of American broadband networks. The “average connection speed” they report is well below the average speeds reported by the FCC’s SamKnows studies as well as the Ookla reports. This is because it’s the streaming rate from Akamai servers that are serving up rate-limited SD and pseudo-HD video streams for the most part, and they even say that average speeds don’t represent infrastructure capacity: “In contrast to the average connection speed, the average *peak( connection speed is more representative of Internet connection capacity.”

    So look at the charts of average peak speeds and you’ll see that the US figure is 29.6 Mbps rather than the average average speed of 7.2 Megs. Average peak also shows that the 10 fastest areas of the world are:

    1 Hong Kong 54.1
    2 South Korea 48.8
    3 Washington, DC 42.3
    4 Japan 42.2
    5 Delaware 39.3
    6 Vermont 38.8
    7 Latvia 37.5
    8 Romania 37.4
    9 New Hampshire 37.1
    10 Massachusetts 36.0

    This isn’t a completely fair ranking since it mixes countries, states, and cities, but for all practical purposes Hong Kong is a city rather than a country.

    • Mr. Bennett, the ranking for Delaware being number 5 only shows the upper 1/3 of the state. The lower 2/3’s of the state does not even come close to the speeds shown. Myself being a resident have talked to many other people about the access of internet service and it is in places not available or are limited to <3mbps, some people limited to dial-up(ouch).

      • Richard Bennett

        Sorry, Garry, but your guess is incorrect. Akamai’s Average Peak Connection speed is the average of the peak rates observed for all IP addresses in a region. They look at all of Delaware, not just the northern third.

  2. Flux Research

    If the FCC would step in and stop big telecoms from blocking municipal broadband via lawsuits and in-the-pocket state legislators, we’d already have more access to broadband. North Carolina being a prime example.

  3. Richard Bennett

    As I predicted, the US is now in the top ten (tied for 8th) and four of the nations above us are city-states rather than real countries.

    Don’t tell Crawford, she’ll have a heart attack.

    • Christopher Mitchell

      By one measure. This is the probably the most optimistic of the international comparisons and likely mixes business connections with residential. But yes, if I were working directly or indirectly for the private telecommunications industry, I would write what you just did.

      • Richard Bennett

        That’s an awfully childish reply, Mr. Mitchell, with the added virtue of being false. Facts are facts, and those of us who make predictions for a living like to be proven right.

  4. elfonblog

    “the latest data from Akamai shows that the the number of broadband connections over 10 Mbps — what Akamai dubs “high broadband” has grown by 73 percent from the third quarter of 2011 to the third quarter of 2012. The country has also see a 20 percent overall increase in average speed to 7.2 Mbps over the past year”

    This article feels incomplete without an analysis of the impact of Time Warner bumping everyone on the Standard tier from 10Mbps to “up to” 15Mbps during that same quarter.

    • Christopher Mitchell

      Here is your analysis of TWC’s improvement: they are still lagging far behind Comcast and cannot compete with FTTH networks. As Netflix data shows, Time Warner Cable may be one of the biggest cable companies but its networks are slower than most national cable companies.

      • Richard Bennett

        According to Netflix, Google’s Kansas City Gigglenet streams at 2.55 Mbps, Verizon at 2.19, and cable companies stream at the following rates:

        Comcast: 2.17
        Charter: 2.17
        Cablevision: 2.15
        Mediacom: 2.14
        Time Warner Cable: 2.12
        Brighthouse: 2.12
        Cox: 2.07

        The streaming rates for the national networks aren’t significantly different now that they all have DOCSIS 3 (or FTTH in Verizon’s case.) Google’s KC numbers are nice, of course, but that’s just one town.

        To get really low speeds for cable you would need to look at the muni nets that are still running DOCSIS versions 1.1 and 2.