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The Broadband Quality Study – Tracking the Broadband Revolution Worldwide

Broadband is a term that has been around for years and is admittedly overused.  What some refer to as “broadband” is really more of just a step up from narrowband…call it “slightly wider narrowband” if you will.  As many long-time readers of SP360 know, at Cisco, we’ve been a big proponent of having higher broadband standards and classifications since consumers, businesses, and governments alike stand to benefit.  It’s not enough to just get marginally faster email when most of the rest of the world is focused on video and other advanced applications which require not just bandwidth but intelligence as well.

While there are many studies that chart overall broadband penetration, or the percentage of a population that receives broadband (by whatever definition may be used), we realized a few years ago that there wasn’t a study that focused on broadband “Quality” (i.e. what that said broadband can actually do).  To that end, Cisco searched around and found interest in an effort from the Saïd Business School of Oxford University and the University of Oviedo’s Department of Applied Economics that we agreed to sponsor.  The effort, called  the Broadband Quality Study, or BQS, is now in its third year with the latest results just released.

So what’s the news this year compared to last year or in 2008 when the study debuted? While the BQS, which uses  the data from 40 million real-life broadband quality tests conducted in 72 countries around the globe between May-June of 2010, gives us many new insights and surprises every year, I would say the real standout result this year is the speed at which countries have been able to become broadband leaders in just a few years. While we have expected this trend in the past, the three years of data to draw on, the BQS only now really proves it:

  • Globally, broadband quality has improved 24% in just one year and 50% since 2008.  This is really a substantial jump and showcases both the importance that regulators see and opportunity that providers realize in delivering broadband that can do more to their respective markets.
  • 14 countries (1 in 5) are already prepared for the Internet “applications of tomorrow”. This is incredible considering that just two years ago, only one country, Japan, qualified.  This year, South Korea, tops the list but is joined by more than a dozen more global quality leaders.
  • Many emerging economies are now ‘leapfrogging’ their more developed neighbors by deploying fiber to their cities, acknowledging that high quality broadband in the cities will have the biggest impact on their economies.
  • 38 countries, 53% of the total, have conquered the digital quality divide, with less evident differences between the broadband quality inside and outside their main cities, an improvement of 58% in just one year.
  • Mobile broadband quality, too, has improved significantly in one year. 10% of mobile broadband users already enjoying similar quality experiences compared to those with fixed-line broadband.  Sweden, Denmark, USA, and Spain top the mobile quality rankings for 2010.

And what about the links between broadband and a nation’s advancement as an economy? Well, as the study has evolved and become more refined, we have now found over 40 positive correlations between broadband leadership and economic development. Most significantly, broadband leadership is strongly associated with competitiveness, a knowledge economy and innovation.

Please be sure to dive into more findings of the study found on Oxford’s site.  Not only is it interesting, but given the importance that broadband plays to fundamental development of a nation, it is too important to pass up.

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