Following on from an article I published last week on advertised broadband speeds which had Australia placed 26th, the results of a new study into the quality of broadband connections were recently released to highlight each nation’s ability to benefit from next-generation web applications and services.

The study which focused on 42 countries within the OECD plus Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs), was conducted by a team of MBA students from the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and the University of Oviedo’s Department of Applied Economics.

Just over half of the countries studied enjoyed broadband at a level of performance required to deliver a consistent quality experience for most web applications today. But major countries such as the UK, Spain, Italy and you guessed it Australia and New Zealand fell well below this threshold. Japan however topped the chart with a score almost twice its nearest rival. They are a nation which made an early commitment to broadband and now have more Fibre to the Home connections than DSL. Late last century the government realised Broadband as a source of competitive advantage, and created their eJapan strategy.

“The Broadband Quality study was developed on the premise that the new generation of web applications will rely on a higher level of performance of broadband connections,” explained Alastair Nicholson from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. “Average download speeds are adequate for web browsing, email and basic video downloading and streaming, 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. Moreover, because the study also found significant correlation between a nation’s broadband quality and its advancement as a knowledge economy, policy makers may need to consider how to create an environment to improve key broadband performance parameters in the future.”

From Australia's perspective this is why the government is investing the $4.7b in the National Broadband Network. The economic benefit from having a high speed infrastructure provides the key ingrediant in building a better future for the country. However as it stands today Australia is placed 28th on this list, and has a long way to improve. With many of the nations in the top 20 acknowledging the importance of the Digital economy, they have made commitments to similar projects as our own NBN, but instead of choosing the cheap and easy path with FTTN, have decided to go all the way with FTTH. Ultimately if we continue down the FTTN path, Australia's competitive position will fall further behind other global digital economies.

Using eight million records from broadband speed tests conducted by users around the world through, the researchers calculated statistical averages for each country of several key performance parameters used to determine the quality of a broadband connection.

The researchesr concluded broadband experience is mainly affected by speeds in both directions, latency, network oversubscription, and packet loss. These parameters were grouped into three major categories: download and upload throughput, and latency. The Broadband Quality Score (BQS) for each country was determined using a formula that weighted each category according to the quality requirements of a set of popular applications now and in the future.

Typical applications for today include web browsing, social networking, music downloads, basic video streaming and video chatting, and enterprise-class home offices. Future applications include consumer telepresence for communications, healthcare and education, high-quality video file sharing and streaming, high-definition IPTV, cinema-quality live event broadcasts and advanced home automation.

“By using actual broadband-quality test results, the research team has given us a fresh insight into what users around the world are really experiencing and whether they can look forward to enjoying new applications,” said Fernando Gil de Bernabé, managing director at Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group. “A nation’s leadership in broadband was typically determined by its ranking on penetration, and now we know that this will not be enough. 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.”

Professor María Rosalía Vicente from University of Oviedo pointed out about the digital divide and that "the broadband gap can no longer be seen as a penetration divide", but "also a quality and capacity divide, and therefore, a divide in the range of services people can access and use.”


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