Many countries have come a long way since the dial-up days of the internet, when connections were spotty and accessing a page could take several minutes. But in many parts of the world, including in emerging Asia, unreliable or slow connections are still a problem, even as our dependence on being online to do everything from processing payroll to creating forecasts has grown.
Slow internet speeds have a direct impact on productivity and, therefore, revenue: In 2015, research commissioned by business communications firm Daisy Group found that unreliable connections cost the UK economy £11 billion (about US$16.3 billion in 2015) a year in lost productivity.
A study by TRAC Research found that US$4,100 is the average revenue loss for an hour of slowdowns.
A fast internet connection has become essential for business – for processing tasks as well as for speaking to clients and partners remotely using programs such as WhatsApp or Skype
Jaguars and snails
According to the most recent version of content delivery and cloud provider Akamai’s annual State of the Internet report, the global average internet speed, 7 Mbps, has increased 26% over the past year. But while some countries are racing ahead, others are lagging behind.
South Korea, with an average connection speed of 26.1 Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2016, was at the top of the stack. That was followed by Norway (23.6 Mbps) and Sweden (22.8 Mbps) at the top of Akamai’s chart. Hong Kong was No. 4, with 21.9 Mbps, with Singapore at 8th place (20.2 Mbps) and Japan in 9th place (19.6 Mbps).
The US was ranked 14th, with an average speed of 17.2 Mbps, but with wide variation among states. The UK was ranked 16th, with an average speed of 16.3 Mbps. Yemen came in at the bottom of the list for this quarter, with an average speed of a dismal 1.3 Mbps.
In Asia Pacific, the Philippines (4.5 Mbps) has the slowest speed among the larger economies, with India only slightly better at 5.6 Mbps, China at 6.3 Mbps and Indonesia at 6.7 Mbps.
Internet Speed in Asia Pacific
Average connection speed (IPv4) by APAC country/region. Source: Akamai State of the Internet/Q4 2016
The reasons for slow and interrupted connections can vary. “In some countries, improving connectivity hasn’t been a priority,” said David Belson, editor in chief of the Akamai report. “In some cases, it might be that an authoritarian government is not rushing to give the populace means of organizing and coming together. A lot of it is simply cost, and sometimes geography doesn’t allow it.”
Some interruptions are temporary, rather than systemic. During Hurricane Matthew in October, traffic to Akamai in the Bahamas dropped to about one-tenth of the country’s normal levels.
In Gambia on November 30th, the night before its national elections, web traffic dropped to zero, likely a result of government throttling, Belson said, before returning to normal on December 2nd. In Pakistan, technical issues at the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited were blamed for a sudden drop in traffic to the country at the end of last year.
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