Monday, 24 September 2012 18:02

Australia's low broadband ranking


The opposition says it, the government said it when it was in opposition, we all say it – Australia is way off the pace in broadband penetration. A major new ITU (International Telecommunications Union) report places us 26th – after Slovenia, but ahead of Barbados.

Australia has 23.9 fixed (wired) broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, with the city states of Liechtenstein and Monaco ranked first and second. First real country is Switzerland, with 39.2.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Korea, Norway, France, Iceland and Belgium fill out the top ten. All have well over 30 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Many countries, including Australia’s near neighbour Timor-Leste, have no connections at all.

The report also places Australia 20th in mobile broadband penetration, with 42.8 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants (Singapore and Korea, in the first two spots, each have more subscriptions than people). We are also ranked a lowly 21st in percentage of households using the Internet (79.0%).

But the report also shows the effect of planned broadband targets. Australia’s NBN target, if achieved, will place us third in 100Mbps broadband penetration by 2020.

The report is the ITU’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development’s first-ever country-by-country snapshot of the state of broadband deployment worldwide. The “State of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion for All” report evaluates the roll-out of broadband around the world.

It tracks progress towards achieving the four advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011 for boosting broadband affordability and uptake. It provides country rankings across up to 177 economies on economic impact, penetration, national broadband policy, and connecting people and dwellings.

The report was released at the sixth meeting of the Commission, which was held today in New York to coincide with the 67th session of the UN General Assembly. It was welcomed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called broadband a “transformative technology that has the potential to spark advances across all three pillars of sustainable development: economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.”

The report reveals that while household Internet access has seen strong growth over the past year and is on track to achieve the Commission’s target for connecting homes to broadband, individual Internet use continues to lag behind. ITU analysts believe that mobile broadband could prove the platform for achieving the boost needed to get progress back on track – at the end of 2011, there were already almost twice as many mobile broadband subscriptions as fixed broadband connections.

“Broadband networks and services are transforming our way of life” says ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré. “The ITU Broadband Commission is committed to ensuring that the benefits of broadband are available to all.

The report notes a strong linguistic shift now taking place online. If current growth rates continue, it says, the number of Internet users accessing the Internet predominantly in Chinese will overtake English language users by 2015. English is currently used by 565 million Internet users, and Chinese by 510 million. Next most common languages are Spanish (165 million), Japanese (99 million) and Portuguese (83 million).

The extensive 100 page report outlines a variety of ways in which broadband is improving the lives of people around the world, in eHealth, distance education and learning, mobile payment systems, and in improving the lives of women, promoting innovation and fostering the acquisition of new skills. It also reinforces a clear need for policy leadership to facilitate the deployment of broadband around the world. The reports says 119 countries now have a national broadband plan or policy in place.
The report is the most authoritative of its type yet published. It draws on ITU’s extensive statistical evidence base, and is the result of close collaboration between broadband authorities in various countries.

It highlights the importance of public private partnerships in accelerating change, presents twelve recommendations to speed up the roll-out and deployment of broadband, and includes 24 “featured insights” from 60 leaders from industry, government, international organisations and NGOs.



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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.


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