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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 December 2007, 10:16 GMT
Broadband speeds around the world
As the UK debates how and when to roll our faster broadband networks, we look at the huge divide between the speeds of some of the world's faster broadband nations and some of the slowest. There is also a big gap between the advertised speeds and the actual speeds users are getting.

UKSwedenPolandChinaNew ZealandJapanIsraelUSAMexicoFranceSouth AfricaSouth Korea

UNITED KINGDOM

Currently in the UK the big issue is the gap between advertised and actual speeds, so while 10Mbps might be available from a few suppliers, very few actually get this speed. According to speedtest.net - a global speed test created by actual users and approved by most of the major ISPs in the US - the real speed is closer to 3Mbps.

Things get faster next year as ADSL2+ comes online promising speeds of up to 24Mbps, although as with all DSL technology, there are physical limits and only those close to the exchange will actually get the top speeds.

Virgin Media is currently trialling a 50Mbps cable service and BT is also experimenting with fibre to the home, which could offers speeds of up to 100Mbps.

FRANCE

France has an advertised average of 44Mbps.

According to speedtest.net the average speed from those doing the test is 4.6Mbps but higher speeds are beginning to come online. ADSL2+ is already available and is being marketed as providing speeds of up to 28Mbps.

Actual speeds will vary although the copper telephone lines are generally of better quality than in the UK, so speeds are typically higher.

The leading ISPs in France have announced fibre-based services. Orange and Frees' offerings are live now and are marketed at offering speeds around 50Mbps. Free's offer at 29 euros a month, comes bundled with a broadband telephone service, IPTV, plus a free set top box.

GERMANY

Average advertised speeds of 9Mbps falls to 4.8Mbps according to speedtest.net.

In Germany the main delivery mechanism is still largely DSL, and the leading company is the old incumbent Deutsche Telekom.

They have a VDSL network - which provides fibre as far as the street cabinet.

This is live in the main German cities, and offers speeds of up to around 25Mbps. Outside of the main towns there is a mixture of ADSL 1 and 2 technologies.

SWEDEN

Average advertised speed of 21Mbps but according to speedtest.net, people are actually achieving an average of 7.4Mbps.

In Sweden there is a VDSL network live. Fibre has been available for quite a long time with a significant number of people served by it.

Speeds vary depending on which network, but can go up to 100Mbps, However there is a big polarisation between those that get it and those still relying on DSL products.

SOUTH AFRICA

1Mbps (this data comes from the ITU as OECD doesn't have figures for Africa).

Alongside countries such as Morocco, South Africa is one of the biggest broadband countries in Africa.

The primary delivery mechanism is via broadband. WIMAX penetration is still low. Although it is likely to become an important infrastructure in Africa, currently it is too expensive to be widely deployed.

ISRAEL

Israel's advertised figure is 2Mbps.

Israel has very high penetration levels with around 70% of households using a broadband connection.

There is quite a lot of cable services available alongside DSL and there has been quite a big government spend on broadband.

UNITED STATES

The US has an average speed of 8Mbps according to the OECD, although it is nearly half this (4.6Mbps) according to speedtest.net.

The US is unusual because it is one of the few countries in which cable is the largest connection network.

Typically cable is marketed at offering between 5Mbps and 20Mbps. Number of fibre providers, most notably Verizon which offers fibre to home, with speeds up to 20Mb, This is just available on the east coast. ATT is offering a hybrid DSL service while Qwest has just announced a fibre to street strategy.

MEXICO

Mexico's advertised speed is 2Mbps.

In Mexico the predominant infrastructure is broadband via DSL.

Its rich incumbent telecom firm TelMex are considering laying fibre and despite the fact that there is no large scale implementation it is likely to overtake the UK very soon in terms of the amount of fibre available.

JAPAN

Japan has an average speed of 93Mbps according to the OECD, but this falls to 10.6Mbps according to speedtest.net, which could be indicative of the fact that fibre is concentrated in the towns and cities.

Cable broadband is quite strong in Japan but the biggest market is in fibre to the home.

This has proved so popular with consumers that DSL is actually in decline. Companies are so advanced with fibre delivery that they are beginning to find DSL surplus to requirements.

The speeds fibre provides means applications such as sharing video files are standard.

Fibre also dramatically improves upload speeds, making it much more suitable for web 2.0 communication, with individuals contributing back to the internet with pictures and videos.

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea's figure is 43Mbps.

In South Korea there has also been a very strong fibre rollout, which has been enabled, at least in part, by state contributions.

Often regarded as something of a gold standard when it comes to super-fast broadband, an amazing 90% of homes have a broadband connection of between 50 and 100Mbps.

They also pay the lowest rates in the world. There are pilot services offering connections starting at 1,000Mbps.

The big driver for fast broadband here is gaming and 43% of the population has a personal profile in the virtual world Cyworld, which recorded 5m worth of trade per month last year.

Those dawdling on slow UK connections can take heart from results from speedtest.net which show that some citizens are only achieving speeds of 3.6Mbps. This is because the extremely fast networks are concentrated in the towns and cities.

NEW ZEALAND

Average advertised speed of 13.5Mbps, falls to 2.4Mbps according to speedtest.net

Broadband comes largely via DSL in New Zealand where Telecom New Zealand is very dominant.

Cable is limited to one or two cities.

There are very specific challenges for providers in New Zealand. Because of the distances between houses there tends to be very long telephone lines, meaning quality is not great for many. International connectivity is also an issue because of its physical distance from the rest of the world. There is not much competition meaning speeds stay slow.

The model of local loop unbundling - opening the telephone exchanges to other operators - is being considered as is the idea of providing fibre to the street cabinet or to push DSL into remoter street cabinets to reduce line length.

POLAND

Average speed of 4Mbps, falls to 1.6Mbps according to speedtest.net.

In Poland there is virtually no local loop unbundling, which means little competition for the France Telecom-owned incumbent.

Speeds there aren't fast by western European standards although there are quite a lot of so-called LAN networks (Local Area Networks) using ethernet cable, which allow for super-fast speeds because of their limited geography. This phenomenon is peculiar to eastern European countries such as Poland where the existing infrastructure isn't great but it is relatively easy for local entrepreneurs to set up such systems quickly.

CHINA

ITU data puts China's broadband speed at 1Mbps.

China is fast becoming the world's largest broadband economy. It is laying quite a lot of fibre which is a less disruptive option in China because of the amount of new building work being done.

It already has 14 million fibre lines, compared to 9.6 million in Japan, 1.7m in the US and just a few thousand in the UK but it doesn't generate the same speeds as in other Asian countries because the fibre tends to feed into blocks of flats rather than individual dwellings.





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