Broadband quality increasing worldwide

Oxford University study finds that the quality of broadband worldwide has improved by 50 percent in past three years.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

The quality and availability of broadband around the world have improved dramatically in recent years, according to an Oxford University study out today.

Sponsored by Cisco Systems, the third annual study from the Oxford's Said Business School examined broadband access across 72 countries and 239 cities. Due to investments around the world, the quality of broadband has improved by 50 percent in just the last three years, the study found, while 49 percent of the countries in the study now have broadband access, compared with 40 percent in 2008.

The average global download speed has shot up from 3.27Mbps (megabits per second) in 2008 to 5.92Mbps in 2010. The average upload speed has jumped from 794Kbps (kilobits per second) in 2008 to 1.77Mbps this year.

As a result of the higher speeds and greater access, 48 countries, or 66 percent of those studied, now meet the necessary requirements to tap into the major services available on the Internet today. Those services include social networking, low-definition video streaming, basic video-conferencing, small file sharing, instant messaging, e-mail, and Web browsing. Even further, 14 countries and 38 cities are now prepped for what the study dubbed the Internet "applications of tomorrow."


Among the individual countries examined in the study, South Korea topped the charts with the highest broadband quality in the world. South Koreans enjoy an average download speed of 33.5Mbps, a gain of 55 percent from last year, and an average upload speed of 17Mbps, a leap of 430 percent from 2009. As this point, the country also is the beneficiary of 100 percent broadband penetration.

Hong Kong, Japan, and Iceland were also among the countries with the best broadband access. The United States ranked 15th, tying with Canada, France, and Latvia. The average download speed in the U.S. is now 9.6Mbps, while the upload speed is resting at around 2.2Mbps.

Mobile broadband has also improved, according to the study, and in some cases now offers an experience comparable to that of fixed-line broadband. The average mobile download speed is now 936Kbps, up 35 percent from 2009, while upload speeds now hit around 277Kbps, a gain of more than 100 percent from last year. Throughout the world, Sweden, Denmark, the U.S., and Spain are the leaders in mobile broadband quality.

To conduct its study, a group of MBA students compiled data from 40 million broadband tests conducted in May and June of this year using the Internet site speedtest.net.