Akamai who operate a massive Content Delivery Network (CDN) regularly publishes an update on the State of the Internet. The fourth quarter for 2011 report has recently been released, and it is getting a lot of coverage in the UK but looking at places like the US it seems to be barely covered. Is this difference in coverage levels part of a national obsession with speed, rather than just getting on and using our connections?
A major reason behind the UK coverage is that UK speeds have slipped from 5.1 Mbps to 4.9 Mbps, but the amount of questioning over whether this drop is statistically significant is almost so small it is invisible. While we can be confident that Akamai will have ensured that any platform issues will not have affected the results, we cannot be sure that perhaps due to poor peering from one major provider that this has not skewed the results. My thinking is that O2/Be customers appear to currently have internet issues with peering bandwidth to the BBC iPlayer, which with its use of Akamai might be enough to skew the results, and this has been on-going for some months.
Interestingly some are looking at the 91% of those from the UK using an Akamai service grab the data at 2 Mbps or faster as showing the 2 Mbps USC plans are on track. Correct me if I am wrong, but apart from grants in Wales, there has not been any significant progress on USC policy implementation. The 91% figure is roughly in line with what one expects from ADSL speed wise across the UK, so fingers crossed no politicians try to use the figure for gain, otherwise it will be egg on face time.
At the end of the day, many millions of people in the UK have made a decision not to buy the fastest broadband connection available to them, settling for a cheaper solution that meets their needs. Take-up of the FTTC and FTTP products from Openreach appears to be increasing as it is available more widely, which mirrors the pattern of ADSL roll-outs, which until they hit a critical mass was very much the domain of the geek.
There is a salient lesson to be learnt from the Akamai data, the nation the cheerleaders want us to emulate is South Korea, but their average even in a City is 21.7 Mbps. Given the apparent widespread availability of 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps networks we are frequently told are the best thing since sliced bread this average looks very low. Imagine the uproar if a provider in the UK released a 1 Gbps product, and the average speed was just 22 Mbps.