1 South Korea
According to a recent BBC news report, a concerning number of young South Koreans are spending up to 18 hours a day in front of their PC. The phenomenon, which has seen 210,000 young people treated for internet addiction, has inspired a media panic of almost swine flu proportions. However, we’re less ashamed that we should be to admit that if we had the kind of broadband connection speeds that light up the free half of the Korean peninsula, we’d also need to be torn away from our monitors.
With far-sightedness to shame certain Whitehall figures responsible for ensuring our survival in the brave new digital economy, the nation took its first baby steps towards constructing a fibre optic network back in 2003. And, capable of delivering speeds of up to 100Mb and set for completion this year, what a network it is.
But the nation isn't one to rest on its next-gen laurels. Right now the Korea Communications Commission is spending $24 billion to secure 1Gb access by 2012. That's fast enough to download a 120-minute film in 12 seconds.
In the meantime, Akamai's 'The State of the Internet' report found that the average connection is 14.6 Mb. This is more than seven times faster than the minimum connection speed Digital Britain’s report is proposing some parts of the UK will have to wait another two years for.
Completing an Asian top of the table takedown is Japan, where the average speed is 7.9Mb. However, if you're lucky enough to live in the Blade Runner-style environs of Tokyo, you can get up to 1GB with the Hikari network.
The fastest services are naturally fibre optic based. But the destruction of many cities’ copper wire network during World War II saw ADSL tech installed in its stead – and even this is up to four times faster than most countries.
Somewhat surprisingly in a nation renowned for its high cost of living, Japan is also the owner of the title of the cheapest rate per megabit per second, the OECD found in a 2009 survey.
So why isn’t Japan top of our broadband tree? Because although the speeds are second-to-none, broadband penetration stands at under a quarter of the population.
The Swedish government’s IT ministry has pledged to deliver 100Mb broadband to 90 per cent of its population before 2020. In the meantime, it’s already well ahead of many much, much larger nations with an average connection speed of 5.7Mb.
Jealous? Just a bit, I’m thinking. It’s enough to make you vote for Scandinavian-style super-high taxes. If weren’t about to get those foisted on us anyway, that is.
4 Hong Kong
Massive investment in fibre to the home broadband helped Hong Kong to attain a current average connection speed of 7.6Mb.
Residents of the city state can also get access to a super-fast 'up to 100Mb' service for a fraction of the cost elsewhere in the world. In November last year, Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) launched a 100Mb package for just HK$99/month. In UK money, that equates to the princely sum of £8.
If this was a World Cup of broadband, Romania would certainly be the team that cliché-spouting commentators dub ‘the dark horses of the competition’. Alas, they weren’t able to beat the established Asian powerhouses this time out. But an average connection speed of 6.2Mb is a stellar showing. All the more so since the country has managed to achieve it without a state-backed fiscal stimulus.
Less positive is that ADSL penetration remains fairly low, with connectivity often hardly extending into rural areas. However, with the Yankee Group forecasting that digital access will grow threefold by 2012, we expect the Romanians to push strongly towards a semi-final berth next year.
A Forfas study published last month found just 0.6 per cent of connections in Ireland are fibre optic. Furthermore, analysts’ agree that compared to other OECD nations, Ireland’s broadband market is relatively undeveloped – just five years ago it was one of the most expensive in the world.
So it might surprise some that Akami discovered that the average speed connection speed is 5.3Mb, following a massive 73 per cent improvement over the last 12 months. That makes Ireland the second fastest in Europe.
In contrast to Ireland, the Dutch benefit from one of the most developed broadband markets in the world. Google might have grabbed the headlines after announcing its forthcoming trial of a 1Gb cable network, but Netherlands player Reggefiber is also upgrading its network to offer the same speed. Naturally, this is far from standard. But with an average speed of 5.2Mb, there’s nothing low about broadband speeds in the low countries.
Mobile broadband prices are, however, some of the keenest in the world, with only France, where you can get an unlimited plan for just £10 per month, and Singapore beating local 3G operators.
Amazing to think that it’s just twenty years since Latvia broke free of Soviet rule. And in the rush to join the modern world, broadband has been at the forefront of change.
That’s reflected in broadband quality surveys which consistently rate the former Baltic state highly, with many analysts regarding it as one of the best prepared nations around for next-gen services, such as HD streaming. Average speeds, meanwhile, run at a none-too-shabby 5.1Mb (Akamai).
A massive 99 per cent of Danish households have access to broadband, the IT and Tele Agency recently found. Average speeds stand at only slightly less impressive 4.8Mbps. Great Danes, indeed.
Mean connection speeds in the land of cuckoo clocks stand at 5Mb. And mobile broadband in Switzerland is no slouch either. The nation’s largest supplier Swisscom’s upgrade of its mobile broadband network means it now offers a theoretical top speed of 28.8Mb. It's also set to commence extensive trials of LTE/4G technology in April 2010.