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Australian internet: Still slower than the rest

New research by Akamai shows that Australia's has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world in comparison to a number of other countries.
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor

It's true even though it might not seem like it, the internet is getting faster — even here in Australia.

Sadly, a 38 percent spurt in average speeds — as measured by the latest Akamai State of the Internet Report — still has us seventh from the bottom of all 34 OECD nations. That's the same place in the league table as a year ago. Not exactly where a remote nation in the South Pacific wants to be if it wants to be a serious contender in the emerging digital economy.

At the other end of the scale, South Korea has gone on leaps and bounds — up 56 percent to an average speed of 21.9 megabits per second (Mbps). That's almost four times the average Aussie connection of 5.8 Mbps.

Australia and New Zealand are stuck at the bottom of the list along with an assortment of economic basket cases: Chile, Mexico, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Map internet speeds related to wealth — however you want to measure it — and Australia is clearly at the bottom of the table.

Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet

So, why has South Korea suddenly led further ahead of the pack? Simply, more people have faster connections. The proportion hooked up to speeds faster than 10 Mbps has risen from 49 percent in Q4 2012 to 71 percent in Q4 2013. In Australia only 9.7 percent of connections hit that speed, although that's a significant improvement on 3.9 percent a year ago.

Let's use these stats for the inevitable NBN technologies discussion (the author lights the blue touch paper and waits for the explosion).

The node-ridden British Isles currently enjoys average speeds 62 percent higher those we are struggling with in the antipodes. 30 percent have speeds faster than 10 Mbps — more than three times the penetration in Australia. In fact a year ago, the poms were pretty close to where Australia is today where their average broadband speed was 6.5 Mbps, our is now 5.8 Mbps; their penetration over 10 Mbps was 11 percent, here in Australia it's currently 9.7 percent. So presumably, if we could see a tripling of the penetration of speeds over 10 Mbps in the next 12 months, we can again follow the path of the Brits.

Like it or not, doing that probably means lots of cabinets on street corners.

Or we can slide down the path, waiting for the day when fibre utopia takes us from the bottom of the table right to the top. Like that's going to happen! Surely, common sense suggests we have two plans — one to help us keep up, and one to pump us a few places up the table in the longer term.

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