As the applications we can access online have improved in their scope, the need for faster communications speed has increased as well; while some basic online functions would still function using dial-up speeds (and a very small proportion of Australians are still on dial-up), many of the things that we do online now, whether for business or pleasure simply won’t work with lower speed access. So I was quite interested when Akamai released its quarterly “State Of The Internet” report, which you can dig into in some detail here: www.akamai.com/stateoftheinternet/
Akamai (it’s Hawaiian for “intelligent” or “wise”) is a company that provides content delivery services for online companies, providing load balanced mirrors of content worldwide. You’ve almost certainly downloaded something via an Akamai mirror at some point, but the service is designed to be transparent, so you figure you’re getting a movie, software patch or new application from the company you’ve purchased it from. Rather than host their own servers worldwide, they pay Akamai — and so you get your files from a closer (and faster) server. Speed is therefore something Akamai’s quite keen on.
Australia’s telecommunications network is an interesting creature, but in worldwide terms we’re doing fairly well. The average connection speed for the last quarter of 2011 was 4918kbps, but before going on, it’s well worth mentioning that there’s two aspects to your internet experience; the speed at which you can access data (typically called the download speed), and the speed at which you can send it out — no great shock there that this is your upload speed. Download speed will affect how fast a YouTube video loads, how quickly your general files come down and (to a certain extent) how fast web pages load. Upload speeds are nearly always lower on most connections, and they’ll affect how quickly you can do things like send out email or upload files to online servers or backup utilities.
Akamai’s all about you downloading content, so it’s only the former that it concerns itself with. At that lower end — slower than 256kbps connections — Akamai reported only 1.6 per cent of Australian connections.
There’s still room for improvement, however; typically it’s South Korea with its small area of coverage but high broadband penetration that comes out on “top” in these kinds of reports, and there, the average figure is 17,517kbps. That’s a fine speed any way you choose to measure it.