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January 23, 2013

Average Internet Connection Speeds Drop in Q3 2012

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

In the third quarter of 2012, the global average connection speed declined 6.8 percent to 2.8 Mbps, and the global average peak connection speed declined 1.4 percent to 15.9 Mbps, says Akamai.

That might strike you as odd. Aren’t service providers increasing capacity? Yes.  Globally, high broadband (>10 Mbps) adoption grew 8.8 percent in the third quarter to 11 percent, and South Korea remained the country with the highest level of high broadband adoption, at 52 percent (up 7.8 percent quarter-over-quarter).

But there are lots of other key developments, such as the growth of users. Since access networks are shared, additional users mean more contention for a shared resource. Global broadband (>4 Mbps) adoption grew 4.8 percent to reach 41 percent. 

Image via Shutterstock

The other important trend is that access from mobile devices far outstrips access from fixed network connections, globally. Given that mobile network top speeds are less than fixed networks, generally, a growing volume of mobile connections will affect overall “average speed.”

In the third quarter of 2012, average connection speeds on surveyed mobile network providers ranged from a high of 7.8 Mbps down to 324 kbps. Average peak connection speeds for the quarter ranged from 39.2 Mbps down to 2.8 Mbps.

In 2010, global mobile penetration was nearing 80 percent. Early in 2012, global mobile penetration reached 85 percent.

As a result, mobile data traffic doubled between the third quarters of 2010 and 2011, matching the annual growth rate recorded between the second quarters of 2010 and 2011. Quarterly growth between the second and third quarters of 2011 was 18 percent.

All of that means “average” statistics about broadband access speeds will have to be considered in a more nuanced way from this point forward. As “most” Internet access happens from mobile devices, the “average” connection speed, either peak or average, is going to reflect the “slower” mobile speeds, compared to fixed network connections.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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