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Third annual broadband study shows global broadband quality improves by 24% in one year

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  • Third annual study from Saïd Business School, Oxford University, looks at broadband quality in 72 countries and 239 cities
  • 14 countries (1 in 5) already prepared for the Internet "applications of tomorrow", compared to only 1 country in 2008
  • 38 countries, 53% of the total, have conquered the digital quality divide, with less evident differences between the broadband quality inside and outside their main cities, an improvement of 58% in just one year
  • Study reaffirms positive link between broadband leadership and innovation economies
  • Many emerging economies are 'leapfrogging' by focusing on bringing the best broadband to their cities, acknowledging their impact on the economy
  • 38 cities already have the broadband quality required for the applications of tomorrow, ready to support smart and connected communities
  • Mobile broadband quality has improved significantly, with 10% of mobile broadband users already enjoying similar quality experiences compared to those with fixed-line broadband
  • Broadband consumption patterns are diverging, from a basic household requiring over 2 Mbps and consuming about 20 GB per month, to a smart and connected home commanding over 20 Mbps and a consumption of 500 GB per month

LONDON, 18 October 2010: The results of the third annual study of the quality of broadband connections around the globe reveals continued improvements worldwide, with more countries already prepared for the applications of tomorrow than in previous years and two thirds of the countries analyzed meeting or surpassing today's needs. Overall, thanks to a range of investments in infrastructure, global broadband quality has improved by 50% in just three years and penetration of broadband continues to improve, with about half of the households (49%) of the countries investigated now having access to broadband (up from 40% in 2008).

Using the data from 40 million real-life broadband quality tests conducted in May-June of 2010 on the Internet speed testing site, speedtest.net, the researchers were able to evaluate the broadband quality of 72 countries around the globe.

Quality was evaluated by scoring the combined download throughput, upload throughput, and latency capabilities of a connection, the key criteria for a connection's ability to handle specific Internet applications, from consumer telepresence to online video and social networking. These criteria are expressed as a single 'Broadband Quality Score' for each country. By combining this Broadband Quality Score with broadband penetration figures for each country (i.e. the proportion of households who have access to broadband, obtained from Point Topic in 2010), the researchers were able to map out the world's broadband leaders – those with the best combination of broadband quality and penetration (Note: For a full explanation of how the scores are calculated, see page 4 of the Broadband Quality Study 2010).

Building on last year's study, the 2010 data also includes analysis of the broadband quality of 239 cities, providing further insight into the evolution of smart connected communities around the world.

The measurement of mobile broadband quality, first introduced to the study last year, has also been expanded significantly to include 68 countries (94% of the overall sample). The research has also explored the patterns of broadband consumption per household and evaluated the impact these will have on overall broadband quality requirements.

The study was conducted by a team of MBA students from the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and the University of Oviedo's Department of Applied Economics, and sponsored by Cisco.

Key Facts/Highlights

Global broadband quality continues to improve at a pace

  • Overall broadband quality has increased by 48% since 2008 (although some countries have shown significantly larger improvements):
    • The average global download speed has increased 49% in just three years (3,271 Kbps in 2008, 4882 Kbps in 2009 and 5,920 Kbps in 2010)
    • The average global upload speed has increased 69% in three years (794 Kbps in 2008, 1,345 Kbps in 2009. 1,777 Kbps in 2010)
    • Average latency has fallen by 25% to 142ms. This is slightly up from 140ms in 2009, but still significantly lower than 189ms in 2008
  • 48 countries, (66%), are meeting the requirements to enjoy all the major services offered by the Internet today (defined in the study as social networking, low-definition video streaming, basic video-conferencing, small file sharing), as well as not so demanding applications (such as instant messaging, email, web browsing). This adds ten countries since 2009, and 18 since 2008. This is in spite of global Internet traffic volumes rising by 166% from 2008-2010 (source: Cisco Visual Networking Index 2010)
  • Fourteen countries are already prepared for the "Internet applications of tomorrow", such as high definition Internet TV and high quality video communications services (consumer telepresence) which are expected to become mainstream in just a few years time. These countries are: South Korea, Japan, Latvia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Finland, Romania, Lithuania, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Portugal, Denmark and Iceland. This is up from nine countries in 2009 and just one in 2008 (Japan). Nevertheless, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Lithuania have limited penetration rates compared to the others
  • South Korea tops the broadband leadership ranking for the second year in a row:
    • Broadband quality in South Korea is ranked the highest and has set a new benchmark for the world
    • Average download throughput is 33.5 Mbps, an increase of 55% from 2009, average upload throughput is 17 Mbps, an increase of 430%, and average latency is 47ms, an improvement of 35% vs. 2009 figure
    • 100% broadband penetration

Broadband leadership table (top 10):Ranking

Broadband Leadership 2010

1

South Korea

2

Hong Kong

3

Japan

4

Iceland

5

Switzerland. Luxemburg, Singapore

6

Malta

7

Netherlands,

8

United Arab Emirates, Qatar

9

Sweden

10

Denmark

Broadband leadership table (top 30) with scores and progress from 2008 to 2010:

Ranking 2010

Country

Leadership 2010

Leadership 2009

Leadership 2008

1

Korea

157

128

107

2

Hong Kong

118

104

98

3

Japan

116

98

95

4

Iceland

115

103

85

5

Luxembourg

111

101

84

5

Singapore

111

105

96

5

Switzerland

111

102

91

6

Malta

108

92

67

7

Netherlands

107

101

93

8

Qatar

106

106

80

8

United Arab Emirates

106

88

68

9

Sweden

104

96

83

10

Denmark

103

94

87

11

Norway

102

95

85

12

Bahrain

100

91

73

13

Finland

97

83

77

13

Ireland

97

86

75

14

Israel

96

N/A

N/A

15

Canada

93

87

81

15

France

93

87

79

15

Latvia

93

71

58

15

United States

93

84

74

15

Slovenia

93

87

77

16

Belgium

91

82

73

17

Estonia

87

77

67

17

Germany

87

77

70

17

United Kingdom

87

82

76

18

Cyprus

83

69

55

19

Taiwan

82

82

74

20

Australia

80

78

74

20

Spain

80

74

69

21

Lithuania

79

75

55

21

Portugal

79

69

60

22

Romania

78

67

54

23

Czech Republic

77

59

49

24

Greece

75

65

52

24

New Zealand

75

70

62

25

Austria

73

69

64

26

Italy

72

68

63

27

Bulgaria

71

62

44

28

Hungary

71

61

51

29

Poland

60

52

45

29

Slovakia

60

54

45

30

Turkey

58

55

48

Ranking Evolution Top 10 Countries, 2008-2010:

Country

2010

2009

2008

Korea

1

1

1

Hong Kong

2

3

2

Japan

3

7

4

Iceland

4

4

8

Switzerland

5

5

6

Luxembourg

5

5

9

Singapore

5

2

3

Malta

6

10

19

Netherlands

7

6

5

United Arab Emirates

8

12

19

Qatar

8

2

11

Sweden

9

8

9

Denmark

10

9

7

Link to socio-economic development

Broadband quality is directly linked to a nation's advancement as a knowledge economy. In order to reflect this in the results, and to see which countries were outperforming their economic group and subsequently were well prepared to make economic leaps, the researchers compared the results according to the country's stage of economic development as defined by the World Economic Forum.¹ See Fig 2: Broadband quality ranking - by economic development for the full breakdown

  • South Korea topped the list of Innovation-driven economies (Stage 3) with a score of 157. Slovakia came last within this group with a score of 60
  • Bulgaria topped the list of Efficiency-driven economies (Stage 2) with a score of 71. South Africa came at the bottom of this group with a score of 34
  • Ghana topped the list of Factor-driven economies (Stage 1) with a score of 38. Angola came at the bottom with a score of 5
  • Qatar topped the list of Stage 1 to 2 Economies with its score of 106. Algeria came at the bottom with a score of 31
  • Bahrain topped the list of stage 2 to 3 Economies, with a score of 100, placing it amongst the broadband leaders of the world (rank 12 in broadband leadership albeit with a low score on BQS at 23). Russia came at the bottom of this group with a score of 50

The team repeated and enlarged the number of regressions conducted in the first edition between broadband quality, broadband penetration and broadband leadership with over 40 socio-economic factors.

The research confirmed the early findings on the positive associations between broadband and the economy. Significantly, broadband leadership is strongly associated with competitiveness, knowledge economy and innovation. The main correlations are shown in Fig 4: Impact of Broadband on Socio-Economic Factors

¹ Stages of Economic Development as defined in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report.
http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/gcp/Global%20Competitiveness%20Report/index.htm

Closing the 'digital divide'

  • Hong Kong, Iceland, South Korea, Luxemburg and Malta lead in broadband penetration with take-up reaching 100% of households
  • 49% of the households of all the countries studied have access to broadband, up from 40% in 2008 and 47% in 2009
  • Half of the countries show no digital divide in the quality of broadband (i.e. between their main cities and outside them), a 38% increase from 2009
  • There are already 38 cities with the broadband quality required to become smart and connected communities; 18 of those are in Western Europe, 11 in Eastern Europe, 7 in Asia, and 1 in the USA
  • Seoul tops the list of cities with the highest broadband quality (scoring 97 out of 100)
  • Japan stands out as having the most cities with the highest broadband quality in the world, with 3 cities Nagoya, Yokohama and Osaka rated 2nd , 3rd and 4th respectively
  • Latvia has the largest gap between the quality in its main cities and those regions outside, while Japan has the largest positive gap where the quality outside its main cities is actually generally better than in the main cities

Leapfrog opportunity

  • While some countries have been able to deliver good quality Internet access for the majority of the population, others, in particular the less developed economies, have focused on delivering high quality broadband to their cities first, as key hubs of economic development, via new investment in fiber or cable services. This is in contrast to the typical approach of the more developed economies who have focused on upgrading old copper based broadband (DSL), in order to bring broadband to as much of the population as possible. As a result these countries, including many from Eastern Europe such as Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic and Hungary, have been able to leapfrog the more advanced economies in terms of broadband quality. However, while their Broadband Quality Score will be high, their penetration figures will be lower, affecting their overall ranking as broadband leaders
  • Bulgaria, Qatar and Bahrain were found to lead their economic groups in broadband quality by considerable margins, competing comfortably, and often beating, many of those in more advanced stages of economic development

Top 10 broadband movers since 2009:

BQS

Penetration

Leadership

Country

2009

2010

Delta

2009

2010

Delta

2009

2010

Delta

Korea

53

81

27

99.55%

100%

0%

128

157

29

Latvia

40

54

14

39.49%

48%

9%

71

94

22

United Arab Emirates

22

24

2

81.88%

100%

18%

88

106

18

Japan

50

64

13

63.43%

66%

2%

98

116

18

Malta

25

28

3

84.31%

100%

16%

92

108

16

Cyprus

23

24

2

59.95%

75%

15%

69

83

14

Finland

33

45

12

66.59%

70%

3%

83

97

14

Hong Kong

29

41

12

94.77%

100%

5%

104

118

13

Iceland

29

38

10

93.92%

100%

6%

103

115

12

Romania

38

44

7

36.05%

42%

6%

67

78

11

Portugal

32

38

6

48.64%

55%

7%

69

80

11

Germany

32

39

7

60.39%

66%

6%

77

88

11

Ireland

26

28

2

77.04%

88%

11%

86

97

11

Improvements in mobile broadband

  • Sweden, Denmark, USA, and Spain are the world leaders in mobile broadband quality. Sweden and Denmark are also in the leading group in fixed-line broadband
  • The latency of mobile broadband, one of the biggest weaknesses of mobile Internet access, has improved by 45% in just one year, from 1313ms to 724ms. Average download speed is now 936 Kbps, up 35% from 2009 and upload is now 277 Kbps, an increase of over 100% from 2009
  • Mobile broadband quality varies considerably with the technology used much more so than with fixed-line. While on average the quality of mobile broadband is far below that of fixed-line, about 30% of users experience download throughputs above 1.3 Mbps (the threshold for today´s applications in mobile)
  • Moreover, 10% of users are already enjoying average download speeds of 3.75 Mbps and uploads of ca. 1 Mbps, and latency below 110ms. This gives them comparable quality to fixed-line broadband users who are ready for "today´s applications", which correspond to the form factor of netbooks and Internet tablets
  • Even more outstanding was to find that 4% of users have average download speeds of 7 Mbps, uploads of 1.7 Mbps and latencies below 100ms

Household consumption

  • The study assessed the average consumption of different household segments and found major differences between basic-digital homes and smart and connected homes
  • Basic digital homes which mainly use the web for simple-quality requirement applications such as web browsing, instant messaging and social networking, consume about 20 GB per month
  • Smart and connected households, who would use the web for high definition video communication, high definition entertainment, tele-education or telemedicine, home security and others, can easily consume 500 GB per month and require an assured bandwidth of 18 Mbps
  • Researchers looked at the impact that higher broadband quality has on the competitiveness of the service providers in a country. Assessing the top 25 countries in broadband quality the team confirmed that service providers that offered significant higher quality of broadband increased their market shares. Specifically:
    • Incumbents that provided fibre connections and were unchallenged increased market share up to 13% in just two years
    • Cable operators with superior quality increased shares between 10 (incumbents) and 60% (new players)
    • Alternative service providers that provided higher broadband quality have shown the highest market share gains, up to 96%, albeit from a smaller customer base

Quotes:

  • Tony Hart, associate fellow, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  • "If I had to pick one key aspect of this year's study, it would be the unprecedented speed at which a country can become a broadband leader. While average broadband quality has improved by 20% in three years and penetration by 22%, some countries have seen improvements of over 50% in this time. Some emerging economies, such as Latvia and Bulgaria have been able to show improvements in broadband leadership of around 60% in just one year. Kenya has the record with a 174% improvement over three years―albeit from a very small starting point. 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."

  • Professor María Rosalía Vicente, University of Oviedo
  • "With 14 countries already prepared for the applications of tomorrow, 66% meeting today's needs and 49% of the global population now having access to broadband, quality Internet access is clearly seen as a priority infrastructure around the world."

    "In this third edition we are beginning to see how mobile broadband access is shaping the future of the Internet too. "Do you have Internet access on-the-go?'' That will be a crucial question to address soon as more and more people are accessing the Internet through mobile devices, smart phones, tablets, netbooks, and other devices which will connect to the Internet with little or no human intervention. The quality of mobile broadband is growing rapidly and already 10% of users are enjoying comparable quality to that of the fixed broadband users who are ready for "today´s applications".

    "The Broadband Quality Study offers more than just data and rankings. As the most comprehensive study of its kind in the world, it offers 'best practice' guides for countries looking to improve their own broadband leadership."

  • Chris Dedicoat, president, European Markets, Cisco
  • "The first Broadband Quality Study was published in September 2008 to highlight each country's ability to benefit from the Internet applications of today and tomorrow. Now with three years' worth of data, the study can really prove the speed at which a country with the right investment and focus can become a global broadband leader and exploit the many benefits that come with broadband leadership. By delivering better access to education, healthcare and in-home services through high-quality broadband, Europe is fast becoming a leader in connected communities, using the network as the platform to provide a better quality of life for citizens and economic development."

  • Fernando Gil de Bernabé, senior director, Cisco
  • "The aim of the Broadband Quality Study is to highlight the link between readily available, high-quality broadband access and innovation economies, and hence the very important role that service providers, countries and cities play with their strategic policies and investments in advanced networks and services. Combining real data on broadband quality with social and economic factors, Cisco is providing unique insight for governments, policy makers and regulators around the world. Moreover, 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.

    "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. 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."

About Saïd Business School

Established in 1996 the Saïd Business School is one of Europe's youngest and most entrepreneurial business schools with a reputation for innovative business education. An integral part of Oxford University, the School embodies the academic rigour and forward thinking that has made Oxford a world leader in education. The School has an established reputation for research in a wide range of areas, including finance and accounting, organisational analysis, international management, strategy and operations management. The School is dedicated to developing a new generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs and conducting research not only into the nature of business, but the connections between business and the wider world. In the Financial Times ranking of MBA programmes (Jan 10) Saïd is ranked 16th in the world, and ranked 15th worldwide in its combined ranking of Executive Education programmes (May 10). It is ranked in BusinessWeek's top 10 business schools outside the USA (Nov 08) and in the Wall Street Journal it is ranked in the top 25 business schools in the world (Nov 07). In the UK university league tables it has ranked first of all UK universities for undergraduate business in eight of the last nine years in The Times. For more information, see www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/

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