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UK in bottom half of broadband league table

The quality of broadband connections in the UK are below the average recorded in 42 countries, a Cisco study has revealed.

The networking company's broadband quality study is being used to highlight each nation's ability to benefit from next-generation web applications and services.

The Cisco-sponsored study focuses on countries in Europe, North America, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Brazil, Russia, India and China. It was conducted by a team of MBA students from Said Business School at the University of Oxford and the University of Oviedo's Department of Applied Economics.

Sweden and the Netherlands had the best-performing broadband connections in Europe. The study found that both countries benefited from increasing investments in fibre and cable network upgrades, coupled with competition diversity, and were supported by strong government vision and policy.

Over half the 42 countries studied enjoyed broadband connections at the level of performance required to deliver a consistent quality experience for most common web applications. Some major countries, including the UK, Spain and Italy, fell just below the threshold.

Japan comes top

Japan, which made an early commitment to investing in broadband as a source of competitive advantage, had by far the highest broadband quality score of the 42 countries studied. It was the only country currently prepared to deliver the quality required for next-generation web applications over the next three to five years, said Cisco.

Alastair Nicholson from Said Business School said, "The broadband quality study was developed on the premise that the new generation of web applications will rely on a higher level of performance of broadband connections.

"Average download speeds are adequate for web browsing, e-mail and basic video downloading and streaming, but we are seeing more interactive applications, more user-generated content being uploaded and shared, and an increasing amount of high-quality video services becoming available."

The study also found a significant correlation between a nation's broadband quality and its advancement as a knowledge economy, and Nicholson added that policymakers might need to consider how to create an environment to improve key broadband performance parameters in the future.

Using nearly eight million records from actual broadband speed tests, conducted by users around the world in May through www.speedtest.net, the research team calculated statistical averages for each country of several key performance parameters to determine connection quality.

The team concluded that broadband experience is mainly affected by broadband speeds in both directions, latency, network oversubscription and packet loss.

These parameters were grouped into three major categories: download and upload throughput, and latency. The broadband quality score for each country was determined using a formula that weighted each category according to the quality requirements of a set of popular applications now and in the future.

Typical applications for today include web browsing, social networking, music downloads, basic video streaming and video chatting, standard definition IPTV, and enterprise-class home offices.

Future applications include consumer telepresence for communications, healthcare and education, high-quality video file sharing and streaming, high-definition IPTV, cinema-quality live event broadcasts and advanced home automation.

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