Internet connections continue to get faster around the world, according to the latest State of the Internet Report from content delivery network Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM). Based on data gathered from Akamai's global network, the report found that the global average connection speed increased 12% quarter-over-quarter to 7.0 Mbit/s, up 26% compared with the previous year.
South Korea still leads the world in terms of average connection speed, with 26.1 Mbit/s, though interestingly this fell slightly (0.7%) from the previous quarter and was down 2.4% from 2015.
However, all other countries at the top table increased their average broadband connection speed, with second-ranked Norway up 26% to 23.6 Mbit/s, third-ranked Sweden up 20% to 22.8 Mbit/s and so on, all the way to tenth-ranked Netherlands, which rose 3.6% to 17.6 Mbit/s.
The US did not make the top ten, and was ranked 14th, with an average broadband connection speed of 17.2 Mbit/s -- but this rose 5.5% from the prior quarter, and was up 21% compared with the fourth quarter of 2015.
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Globally, just under 80% of all connections were 4 Mbit/s or higher, up 3.2% from the previous quarter. South Korea again led the field, with 97% of connections at or faster than 4 Mbit/s. Approximately 42% of global connections were 10 Mbit/s or faster, 25% were 15 Mbit/s or faster and 10% were 25 Mbit/s or faster, and all three cohorts showed growth over the previous quarter.
The data above is for fixed-line connections, and Akamai only tracks IPv4 addresses, so IPv6 data is not included. Also, while the company attempts to separate mobile connection data from fixed-line, it accepts that it may not always be able to separate the two. However, any overlapping data would be limited, according to the company and would not have a substantial influence on the data presented.
Speaking of mobile, Akamai partners with mobile vendor Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) to get more insight into mobile traffic and connections. It found that mobile traffic grew 13% in the previous quarter, and average mobile connection speeds ranged from a high of 26.8 Mbit/s in the UK to a low of 2.9 Mbit/s in Venezuela. The US averaged just under 8 Mbit/s.
This is all positive news on the whole, as we look at improving broadband connectivity around the world. The world is progressing, with 10-plus Mbit/s connections steadily approaching the halfway mark globally, and impressive growth for 15 Mbit/s and 25 Mbit/s connections. But it also underscores how much further connectivity has to develop before we can look at 4K/UHD streams or 360-degree video to be delivered robustly via the Internet. If we assume that a 25Mbit/s connection is required for a true, high-quality, fast-motion UHD stream, only 10% of connections can support its delivery.
In this respect, Akamai's data is more useful than more typical studies that look at maximum advertised speeds, and suggests that the 4K services currently being offered by the likes of Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) are little more than advertising/branding exercises, as opposed to a viable service. That's why average connection speeds from Netflix's ISP Speed Index are mostly in the 3-4 Mbit/s range.
We've still got a way to go before we can think about streaming 4K or enjoying a really immersive, high-resolution, virtual reality experience.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation