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European broadband speeds need a boost

Broadband speeds in the UK, Italy and Spain and many other countries are barely keeping pace with the demands of web-based applications and video services, whose bandwidth needs are expected to only rise, according to a survey.

The survey, sponsored by Cisco Systems, focused on the broadband speeds that users averaged in 42 countries rather than just broadband penetration, the often-used figure for measuring the maturity of a country's internet infrastructure.

But quality of the broadband connection is just as important, as it is linked to how quickly consumers can use bandwidth-intensive video, photo, music services and other applications, said Fernando Gil de Bernabé, managing director for Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group. Sluggish broadband means technology companies are constrained, waiting for infrastructure upgrades.

For each country, a weighted index was created based on upload and download speeds and latency, the time delay it takes a signal to reach another server or to make a complete loop from a sender.

The index is a measure of how well that country's infrastructure stands up against what experts consider to be the performance needed for a good internet experience today: 3.75Mbps (bits per second) download speed, 1M bps upload speed and latency of no more than 95 milliseconds.

The UK, Italy and Spain don't make that mark now; neither do Canada, Greece, Australia, Ireland, Brazil, China or India.

In three to five years, the study predicts the requirement for a good internet experience will be a download speed of 11.25Mbps, upload speed of 5M bps and latency of no more than 60 milliseconds.

Only Japan exceeds that threshold now. But other countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands, Latvia and South Korea are providing now some of the highest quality internet access in the world, exceeding the study's minimum requirement for today.

The survey is based on data collected from Speedtest.net, which measures a user's upload and download speeds and latency from their PC through to the server where information is being requested from.

Speedtest.net records data such as a user's country, service provider and broadband speed, Bernabé said.

The survey used Speedtest.net's data from May, when the site conducted close to 8 million tests, conducted by users in the target countries. Users weren't aware that their test would be incorporated into a study.

Subsequently, the data set isn't perfect. Bernabé said it's possible the same user did multiple speed tests or did those tests at different times of the day, which would yield differing results based on undulating Internet traffic patterns.

However, researchers from Oxford University's Said Business School and Universidad de Oviedo in Spain vetted the study, Bernabé said. In the end, most of the data was kept, as researchers felt it was an accurate representation of broadband speeds, Bernabé said.

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