Researchers at Oxford University's Saïd Business School and Oviedo's Department of Applied Economics checked out a number of different factors -- download and upload speeds, latency, packet loss, jitter, service continuity -- to determine the Broadband Quality Score (BQS) of 42 countries around the world.
They found that, with new online services and applications launching all the time and requiring more and more bandwidth, Japan, which registered a BQS score of 98 (out of 100), is the only country that is ready to meet future demands (three to five years from now).
Those future demands, according to the study, include an average 11.25 Mbit/s downlink and 5 Mbit/s uplink with latency of 60 milliseconds maximum to enable services such as high-definition IPTV, visual networking, and large file sharing.
That compares with current average requirements of 3.75 Mbit/s down, 1 Mbit/s up, and latency of 95 milliseconds for services such as social networking, basic video chatting, and standard definition IPTV.
The average downlink bandwidth requirements, especially for the future years, are "very conservative," states Fernando Gil de Bernabé, managing director of Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group, who notes that much of the required future access bandwidth will be needed for bandwidth-hungry video services.
According to Cisco projections, 50 percent of Internet traffic in Europe today is video, and that by 2012 about half of global Internet traffic will be video-based. "Broadband quality is going to be an issue" in the consumption of these services, notes de Bernabé.
He also points out that broadband quality is very often overshadowed by broadband penetration statistics, even though both metrics contribute to the uptake and development of new services and the resulting influence on economic output and education.
So what, in the eyes of the research team, constitutes decent quality broadband? Well, in today's less bandwidth-demanding environment, a BQS score of 32 has been deemed the "threshold" for a service that can cope with today's broadband service mix. Of the countries included in the survey, 22 had a BQS of 32 or above, while 20 countries fell below the threshold.
In the future, the threshold will rise as popular services require more bandwidth: The report suggests that in three to five years the threshold will rise to a score of 75.
Japan leads the way, Sweden next
With a score of 98, Japan has far and away the highest BQS, according to the report, with Sweden in second place with a score of 55. Cisco's de Bernabé says it's notable that both Japan and Sweden have long had specific broadband policies and a focus on education, that have resulted in high broadband penetration and broadband quality.
The deployment of fiber access technologies and upgraded cable plant also helped countries to achieve a higher score: de Bernabé says broadband quality tends to be higher when a market has technology competition between DSL, cable broadband, and fiber access offerings.
Other countries that scored well include the Netherlands, Latvia, South Korea, and Switzerland. (See table below.)
Table 1: Broadband Quality Score Top 10
|Rank||Country||Broadband Quality Score (BQS)||Broadband Penetration Rate|
Among the countries that just crept above the current threshold of 32 are Finland, the U.S., Russia, Austria, and Portugal, while those that fell just below the 32 score were the U.K., Spain, Canada, and Italy.
At the bottom end of the rankings were (from last place) India (which scored almost zero), China, Mexico, Cyprus, and Brazil.
The research teams also combined the BQS with broadband penetration figures to create a "Broadband Leaders" ranking. Again Japan came out on top, followed by South Korea, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Australia. India was again in last position, with China, Brazil, Mexico, and Poland also ranking in the bottom five positions.
Overall, says de Bernabé, it's clear that countries benefit from having high quality broadband, as it encourages the uptake of new technologies among companies and individuals that benefit productivity and the "knowledge economy."
The report recommends that governments, policy makers, and regulators should set broadband agendas, including specific goals for broadband availability and quality, that encourage investment and technical diversity.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading