Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 01:20 UK

UK broadband 'not fit' for future

Globe with fibre optic cables
Only nine countries are ready for the next-generation of network demands

A study of the global state of broadband has put the UK 25th out of 66 countries in terms of the quality and reach of its networks.

The research for Cisco found that countries such as Latvia and Bulgaria were better prepared than the UK for next-generation net applications.

The UK was listed among countries whose broadband is "meeting needs for today".

South Korea and Japan continue to dominate the league table, largely due to their commitment to fast networks.

In South Korea, for example, the government has promised universal speeds of up to 1Gbps (gigabit per second) by 2012.

Despite not being ready for future applications, the UK was well placed to cope with today's network demands, the study found.

South Korea
Hong Kong

"It can be a bit misleading to look at the rankings. The important thing is whether the broadband quality of a country is good enough for today's needs and the UK falls well within this category," said Joanne Hughes, Cisco's communication manager.

She expects the UK to improve dramatically next year.

"We forecast the UK will improve because of things such as cable networks being upgraded and the Digital Britain report focusing on next generation access," she said.

The study was conducted jointly by Oxford University's Said Business School and Spain's University of Oviedo's Department of Applied Economics.

It found that the average download speed globally was 4.75Mbps (megabits per second), while average upload speed was 1.3Mbps.

Future demands

Researchers also worked out how fit countries were to cope with the demands of today's users based on a set of applications consumers are likely to use.

These included sharing photos, using video on Skype, watching YouTube and standard definition BBC iPlayer content.

So why are we so low down the league? The answer, it seems is simple - fibre and cable
Rory Cellan-Jones
BBC technology correspondent

It found that two-thirds of the 66 countries met the criteria for today's requirements.

But only nine countries, including Japan, Sweden and Latvia, were ready for future demands, such as watching high-definition video.

This is a big improvement on last year's study, which found only Japan was ready for the future.

Researchers estimated that countries would need an average download speed of 11.25Mbps and an upload speed of 5Mbps in order to be comfortably placed for future applications.

'Real speeds'

The research was based on 24 million speed tests done in 66 countries via

The test focused on download speeds, upload speeds and latency - the delay that happens as information is routed around the net.

Using this measure alone, the UK was ranked 31st.

However, researchers combined these results with the broadband penetration in individual countries to create its broadband leadership index.

Under this measure, the UK was ranked 25th.

"Most studies are based just on broadband penetration or, if they look at speed they look at advertised speeds rather than real speeds," said Ms Hughes.

"We wanted to look at the issue of broadband quality which is vital as new applications come along," she added.

"We also looked at broadband penetration because there is no point having good quality networks if they are not widely available," she said.

Ready for tomorrow Comfortable for today Meeting needs for today Below needs
for today
Korea Switzerland Iceland Malta
Japan Czech Republic Estonia Luxembourg
Sweden Norway Greece Chile
Lithuania United States Singapore China
Bulgaria Slovakia Canada Qatar
Latvia Portugal UK Brazil
Netherlands Finland Australia Argentina
Romania France Spain Saudi Arabia
Denmark Germany Poland Cyprus
Hungary New Zealand Costa Rica
Russia Ukraine Bahrain
Belgium Turkey Thailand
Slovenia Ireland Tunisia
Taiwan Italy Mexico
Austria Philippines
Hong Kong UAE
South Africa

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