The Internet is getting faster

The Internet is getting faster

Summary: But, is the last mile of the Internet getting faster fast enough?

Akamai Internet Speeds 1stqtr 2012
The Internet is getting faster throughout the world, but is it getting faster fast enough? (Image copyright Akamai)

The good news, according to Akamai, a high-performance Web and analytics company, is that “the global average connection speed experienced a 14% quarter-over-quarter increase in the first three months of 2012, returning to 2.6 Mbps (Megabits per second).”  The bad news is we want much faster connections than we're getting.

Akamai, in its The State of the Internet, 1st Quarter 2012 report (PDF link, registration required.), now defines “high broadband” as connections to Akamai at speeds of 10 Mbps or greater.  In the past, the company defined “narrowband” as connections to Akamai at speeds of 256 Kbps (Kilobits per second) or below, but as connection speeds continue to increase globally, especially in countries with developing infrastructure,  the number of connections that Akamai sees at these levels continues to decline so Akamai will no longer be reporting on narrowband adoption.

With those specifications, Akamai found that with a few exceptions, such as South Korea, the last mile of Internet was getting faster throughout the world. Even with its decline though, South Korea with an average speed of 15.7Mbps still easily won the gold for the fastest Internet in the world. The United States, with an average speed of 6.7Mbps came in 12th.

The company also reported that “Long term trends were once again very positive, reflecting a continuing shift toward higher speed connectivity. All of the top 10 countries, as well as the United States, experienced positive year-over-year changes in average connection speeds."

When it comes to peak connection speed—the average of the maximum measured connection speeds--”there was strong improvement around the globe with the peak rate increasing nearly 10% to 13.5Mbps. In this metric, Hong Kong bested long-time leader South Korea 49.3Mbps to 47.8Mbps. Here, the US placed 8th with a peak speed of 28.7Mbps.

“Looking at year-over-year changes, the global average peak connection speed was once again up by 25% as compared to the same period a year ago. Extremely strong yearly increases were seen across all of the top 10 countries, with Belgium having the lowest growth rate at 18%. Globally, nearly 130 qualifying countries saw year-over-year increases in average connection speeds, ranging from 3.8% growth in Pakistan (to 5.9 Mbps) to a 213% jump in Libya (to 3.8 Mbps). Only five countries saw a yearly   decline in average peak connection speed, with the greatest loss in Tanzania, which dropped 21% (to 5.1 Mbps).”

If you were to guess which state in the US had the highest bandwidth, you might guess California, New York, or Massachusetts. Or, if you thought about it for a minute you might suggest Missouri thanks to Google's recent Gigabit Internet deployment in Kansas City... but you'd still be wrong.

Within the US, “Delaware  [yes Delaware] remained the fastest state in the union, with an average connection speed that improved 24% quarter-over-quarter to just over 10 Mbps. New Hampshire remained the second fastest state, improving 15% to 9.4 Mbps. All of the top 10  states joined Delaware and New Hampshire in having quarterly changes that exceeded 10%, as did 38 other states across the country. Only Minnesota, California, and Nebraska improved  by less than 10% as compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, though they did not trail very far behind, with average growth rates around 9%.  Arkansas remained the state with the lowest average connection speed, though it increased 14% quarter over-quarter to 3.6 Mbps.”

Still, even as the Internet gets faster, customers want faster rates. 4G customers aren't happy, but all you need to is ask anyone if their Internet connection is fast enough and chances are they'll say no. That's because while our overall speed has improved, we're demanding more from our network connections than ever. For example, we now expect to watch full-screen video every night be it from the Olympics or Netflix movies. Indeed, at night, Netflix has been taking up more bandwidth than any other single Internet service since the spring of 2011. 6.7Mbps may sound good, but in 2012 it's not fast enough.

Related Stories:

Lies, damned lies, and Internet speeds

4G isn't fast enough for tablet and smartphone users

Google Fiber trumps NBN speeds, pricing

What does Google Fiber mean for the rest of us?

Sprint 4G LTE network live in Houston: Hands-on

Topics: Networking, 4G, Fiber, Google, Tech Industry, Wi-Fi

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • It's like the 500 TV channels...

    ...which sounded great, until you realized that they were 500 PAY cable channels. Yep, there's an unterminated fiber bundle sticking out of the ground next to my gas meter. It was to be the "broadband of the future". All we got was a street with long lines of failing pavement from when they tore up the asphalt to wire the neighborhood. Bah humbug!
    Tony Burzio
    • Or channels you never watch...

      Home shopping, 65 different sports channels, 120 simultaneous reality shows, and all the other crap I never watch just so I can get the few that I actually do watch.

      That's why I always ridicule the adds saying you can get xxx number of channels. I don't need more channels. I need less crap.
      • exactly

        >>just so I can get the few
        It turns out now for me that ever these few are not worth watching
  • Why then

    Does it seem that my ISP (Comcrap) uses a sloth riding a tortoise being pushed by a snail to move its bits to my house?
    • You think you have it bad

      Try Frontier.......My download times are 1.5 MPS at best and Comcast is quoting 9,5 to 11 MPS here. Comcast is three times faster and more reliable.....The Frontier so called tech department is so stupid when you try to find out whats screwed up, its unbelievable. I'd switch over to Concast for phone & Internet but I'd never use the TV servise again........its so over prices compared to Direct and not nearly as good a picture least in my area.

      Over and Out
      • LMFAO

        YOU think YOU have it bad?
        Switch to dial-up(unfortunately most of the world is stuck with it) for like a week. Believe me, you'll never complain about 1.5MB/s(hell I'd kill for that kind of speed!) again. because you'll be looking at 2-5 Kb/s.
        • "Most of the world"?

          Having spent considerable time in developing countries, I would dispute that claim. Sure, it might be less-than-blazing 2G or 3G networks, but wireless infrastructure and mobile communications seem more important than passable roads in some areas. Still, it's faster than dialup, and many people in such parts of the world would give up rice before they would the Internet if it came to that.

          Most places lacking any broadband option whatsoever tend to be in extremely remote, low-populated areas. Any city or town greater than a fly speck on a map is going to have some broadband option available, and typically something that is considered locally affordable.
      • Try living in rural MN, ND, MT etc....

        People I know there were grateful to get Frontier. Dial up was the only other option.
  • It take more than raw speed

    I usually have speeds between 5 an 7 with 10 being my best and rated speed, but raw speed is not enough. I notice a greater and greater lag time on many of the sites that I visit. I don't think site providers are keeping up to date. What do the rest of you think?
    • I think...

      it's not the connection: it's you. clear your browser cache once in a while. it happens when it gets close to full. best thing to do with that good of a connection is to disable the cache entirely, as you don't really need it. it's not going to make your pages load any faster by keeping the offline content the sites leave on your computer. the pages will still load instantly ;) also it's more likely due to high traffic rate rather then sites not being kept up to date. best times to be online is early morning and late at night, traffic is pretty light at those times.
      • High traffic rates?

        I think you are right, High Traffic Rates. If a website can't take high traffic rates isn't it not up to date otherwise it can take high traffic rates.
        • speed test

          How do you measure the speed? Try , do a few tests and take the average. Yes, speed is like is a one-lane traffic: its speed is determined by the slowest vehicle.
  • Check your Srouces

    Akamai is a distributer of Malware in my book (and that is being generous, I would quite possibly call them thieves). Their download manager that various software vendors try to force us to use is setup to basically steal your bandwidth. Once installed, it will then send bits of anything you download with it out to other people trying to download these programs. This essentially acts at a Bit Torrent, but they never tell you that they are going to do this.

    This is theft plain and simple and if a company behaves like this, why I should I trust anything else that they publish?
  • No mention of Japan

    The Internet speed is Japan far exceeds some of the countries you' ve mentioned. I have a 160MBPS download coming into my house from JCOM. I get an average speed of about 80MBPS. which is twice the speed of what I use to get back in Virginia from Cox.
    • It's not just speed where U.S. broadband stats stand out

      Broadband costs are MUCH higher in the U.S. than in most other countries (except for the lower-tier broadband from Google in Kansas City, KS and MO). Most broadband and cable customers in the U.S. are getting ripped off.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Report Is Misleading

    The United States is a continental sized country where all of the top ten are the size of California (Finland) and smaller. The cost of providing these fast connections is drastically lower in highly populated and condensed countries like South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. A fair comparison would be to compare major population centers in the US with these countries. I bet that the US would be near or at the top if you compared internet connection speeds by major metropolitan areas.

    Download and compare all the charts that were published and the picture of US broadband speed is actually quite amazing compared to countries of similar size and population. (The US is the third most populated country after China and then India. Compare us to countries like Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and other highly populated large countries and the US is kicking some serious tail.)
    • No way

      "I bet that the US would be near or at the top if you compared internet connection speeds by major metropolitan areas."

      Completely disagree. Every city I've been to in the US (NYC, LA, Miami, SF, Honolulu...) has terrible internet connection compared to Europe. Maybe this is just bad luck.
  • Actually...

    It's the electrons that are getting faster. It's all because of global warming
  • -sigh-

    And here I am, in the state with the slowest internet: Idaho. Paying $50 dollars a month for 1.5mb/s. It actually downloads 80 kb/s, and they barely upgraded it a this year. At this pace it will take 200 years for Idaho to catch up with current speeds.
    • hmmm.

      I'm in Idaho and at 50mb at $25/mo, you must be in a very rural area