Only Japan has the broadband quality to cope with next-generation internet applications, a new study has revealed.
Sweden and the Netherlands have Europe's best broadband, according to the 42-nation study sponsored by internet equipment maker Cisco Systems.
The UK, Spain and Italy fell just below the quality threshold for today's web.
The study aims to highlight each nation's ability to cope with next-generation web applications such as high-quality video streaming.
It was carried out by a team of MBA students from the Said Business School at the University of Oxford and the University of Oviedo's Department of Applied Economics.
They developed a "Broadband Quality Score" for each nation based on internet speed both downloading and uploading, the loss of packets of data and latency - a measure of the delays in information routing.
The study focused on countries in Europe, North America, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Brazil, Russia, India and China (Brics).
Their research found that more than half of those countries had broadband connections good enough to deliver consistent quality for most common web applications today.
Researchers put the success of Sweden and the Netherlands in Europe down to those countries' "increasing investments in fibre and cable network upgrades, coupled with competition diversity, and supported by strong government vision and policy".
They said Japan's early commitment to investing in broadband made it the only country prepared to deliver the necessary quality for next-generation web applications over the next three to five years.
The study used nearly eight million records from broadband speed tests conducted by users around the world during May, 2008, through www.speedtest.net.
Alastair Nicholson, of the Said Business School, said the study was based on the premise that the next generation of web applications would need better broadband.
"Average download speeds are adequate for web browsing, e-mail and basic video downloading and streaming," he said.
"But we are seeing more interactive applications, more user-generated content being uploaded and shared, and an increasing amount of high-quality video services becoming available."
Fernando Gil de Bernabe, managing director of Cisco's internet business solutions group, told the BBC that there was no link between broadband penetration and broadband quality.
I thought it was interesting to see that only one country is ready for these applications that are not really that futuristic
Fernando Gil de Bernabe
"We created a threshold for today's most popular applications and then for the future applications - which are only three to five years away - based on how much quality you need on average to get a consistent experience with these applications.
"When we checked which countries had the threshold for today, actually most countries did OK. Notably the UK, Spain and Italy didn't cut that threshold, even for today's applications.
"For tomorrow's applications only Japan is future-ready. I thought it was interesting to see that only one country is ready for these applications that are not really that futuristic."
He added: "This study gives broadband stakeholders - from governments through to telecom and cable operators and vendors like Cisco - as well as consumers a better understanding of the importance of quality broadband connections.
"Without high-quality broadband, we will not be able to take full advantage of the next wave of productivity, collaboration and entertainment that can be gained from the web."
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