Tuesday, October 19, 2010

U.S. ranks 15th in latest Cisco broadband study


By Gautham Nagesh - 10/18/10 08:31 AM ET

The U.S. ranked 15th among 72 nations on the quality and availability of broadband Internet connections, according to the third annual study from Cisco Systems and the Saïd Business School at Oxford University.

South Korea, which enjoys 100 percent broadband penetration, ranked first, followed by Hong Kong, Japan and Iceland. Fourteen nations, not including the U.S., were also judged ready for the Internet "applications of tomorrow" such as video chat and streaming high-definition video services that require greater bandwidth.

Among nations of similar size, the U.S. was tied with Canada and ahead of Australia; the U.S. was also judged the world leader in mobile broadband along with Spain, Sweden and Denmark.

"Compared to the many growth-enabling infrastructures of the past — the telephone, electricity, railways, etc. — which took many decades or even centuries to impact the wider population, we can see that high-quality Internet access can have an impact on the bulk of the population within just a few years, and its impact will reach the developing world much faster than any other technology of the past," said Tony Hart, associate fellow at the Saïd Business School.

Several American companies, including Google and Apple, are among the market leaders in developing products that provide high-definition video over the Internet, but according to Cisco senior director Fernando Gil de Bernabé, the U.S. won't be fully ready for the technology until next year.

Overall broadband quality in the 72 nations surveyed has increased by 48 percent since 2008, and average global download speeds have increased by roughly the same percentage. Forty-nine percent of all households in the countries surveyed have access to broadband, while 48 countries now meet the requirements to enjoy all major Web services, defined in the study as social networking, low-definition streaming video, basic video-conferencing and small file sharing.

"The study shows that broadband quality can be a key differentiator for service providers to improve their business performance and for cities to attract investment for economic development and provide better services to their constituents," said de Bernabé.

South Korea is among the biggest movers, with average download speeds increasing 55 percent over a year ago to 33.5 Mbps. Seoul also tops the rankings of broadband quality among cities, scoring 97 out of 100.

"Broadband leadership is a very complex issue. While this study sheds light on it, it should serve as a guide only to help countries and cities define their own priorities and measure the success of their policies," said de Bernabé.

"While we have defined the minimum broadband quality for today's and tomorrow's Internet applications, each country and city should have its own definition of these thresholds, influenced by its stage in economic development, ambitions and priorities, and its history and cultural heritage."

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