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Global broadband quality improves but SA still lagging

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According to Oxford University’s third annual study of the quality of broadband connections around the globe, there are continued improvements worldwide, with more countries already prepared for the applications of tomorrow than in previous years and two thirds of the countries analysed meeting or surpassing today’s needs. According to Oxford University’s third annual study of the quality of broadband connections around the globe, there are continued improvements worldwide, with more countries already prepared for the applications of tomorrow than in previous years and two thirds of the countries analysed 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).

South Africa showed a marked improvement from 2009 increasing 10% in its broadband quality score. However, it still remains below the threshold of meeting the quality requirements of today’s applications.

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’ (BQS) for each country. By combining this BQS 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.

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. South Africa’s top cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban had an average BQS of 22,3.

The measurement of mobile broadband quality, was first introduced to the study last year, has also been expanded significantly to include 68 countries (94% of the overall sample).

The study was conducted by a team of MBA students from the Sa√Ød 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, 4,882 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

South Africa ranks 42nd globally and has the following contributing attributes for BQS, the average download speed is 1,557 Kbps: the average upload speed is 337 Kbps and the average latency is 157 ms

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)

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.

South Korea topped the list of Innovation-driven (Stage 3) economies 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 (Stage 1) Economies, 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.

Middle East and Africa data:

Many emerging economies are leaping ahead, often leapfrogging by focusing on bringing the best broadband to their cities, acknowledging their relevance and impact in the economy.

Biggest jump in Broadband Penetration ocurred in UAE, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland and Greece

Broadband Quality Score 2010, Application Readiness:

Ready for tomorrow ‚ no countries in MEA

Comfortably enjoying Today’s applications ‚ no countries in MEA

Meeting needs of Today’s applications ‚ Ghana, Saudi Arabia

Below Today’s Application Threshold ‚ South Africa, United Arab Emirates: Qatar: Bahrain: Tunisia: Pakistan: Morocco: Jordan: Egypt

Basic Applications – Algeria : Nigeria: Kenya: Angola

South Africa is 67% ready for today’s applications in download terms, 57% ready from an upload perspective and only 8% ready from a latency perspective. The latency is skewed unfavourably due to the number of mobile broadband subscribers which in itself has a very high latency.

Executive Quotes:

Tony Hart, associate fellow, Sa√Ød 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‚Äïalbeit 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.‚

Reshaad Sha, Director ‚ Strategy, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group

‚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.‚

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