Macau offers world's cheapest broadband

Three Asian markets among top five worldwide for cheapest fixed line broadband access, but accessibility and affordability remains a challenge globally, new U.N. report finds.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Three Asian markets are among the top five economies in the world with the cheapest fixed line broadband access in 2009, according to a new report from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Topping the global list was Macau, where broadband service was cheapest at 0.3 percent of a citizen's average monthly income, the BBC reported Thursday. The special administrative region (SAR) of China had a broadband penetration rate of 23.42 percent last year.

Hong Kong, another SAR territory, ranked third, with broadband access costing 0.49 percent of a person's monthly wage. In terms of reach, Hong Kong was ranked No. 1 with a penetration rate of 29.34 percent.

At 0.58 percent of monthly wages, Singapore earned the fifth spot for affordable access. It also registered a reach of 23.71 percent.

Fixed broadband access cost and penetration rates in Asia
MarketCost (% of average monthly income)Penetration rate (%)
Hong Kong0.4929.34
South Korea1.4133.8
India5.84< 1
Source: ITU via BBC and IT Pro

Rounding the top five economies with the cheapest broadband access were Israel and the United States, which occupied the second and fourth spot, respectively. Broadband access accounts for 0.33 percent of an Israeli's monthly salary while those in the U.S. fork out 0.5 percent of the average monthly income for their connectivity fix.

On the other end of the scale, fixed broadband access was costliest in the Central African Republic, at nearly 40 times the monthly income, the ITU report showed.

Ethiopia was the second most expensive with access costing almost 21 times the average monthly wage. But only less than 1 percent of the Ethiopian population uses the Internet, making the country's subscriber ratio one of the lowest globally.

Niger was the most expensive country when it comes to using communication technologies, which include landlines and mobiles, the BBC added in its report.

Affordable broadband a challenge
The heavy price to pay for a broadband connection in some countries has resulted in poor subscriber uptake. This has led the ITU to estimate that fixed broadband penetration is below 1 percent in several of the world's poorest countries where access costs can be more than 100 percent of average monthly incomes.

India, for instance, has a penetration rate of less than 1 percent, although broadband access costs a less exorbitant 5.84 percent of the monthly income.

Calling broadband a "transformational technology", ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure told the BBC that the biggest challenge was making universal broadband accessible and affordable.

While he said the world would have global connectivity by 2012 given the rise of mobile communications, broadband remained key. According to the BBC report, Toure is encouraging all countries to make broadband access a universal human right. Over 30 countries have to date agreed to implementing a framework that would make broadband a public service available to all citizens.

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