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Bandwidth: Why fast is important in a Global Economy


Bandwidth is the basic foundation for Internet traffic as a connector to everything important in our lives. Whether it is basic bandwidth for connecting to family 20070628-bandwidth-survey1.jpgand friends, or a super fast highway for global reach and competitiveness in the business world, bandwidth constitutes the speed at which we connect as a global presence within the expanding sphere of Internet communication.

Bandwidth: “defined as the speed at which data is transferred over an electronic communication device like a server. The units of measurement are based on the maximum transfer rate and measured in either Kbps or Mbps.”

• Kbps: (kilobits per second) – “A measure of 1000 bits of information transferred per second.”

• Mbps: (Megabits per second) – “A measure of approximately one million bits of information transferred per second.”

To understand why bandwidth is important to all Americans, including personal and business uses, we must understand the different types Internet traffic.  We also must understand U.S. bandwidth rankings from a global perspective and how successful infrastructure upgrades can ensure fast, secure and easily accessible information sharing in a globally competitive economy.

Types of Bandwidth

• Dial-up – the lowest speed of bandwidth providing 56 kbps connection normally used for e-mail only as transferring large files are impossible.

• DSL – much faster than dial-up and has plenty of bandwidth to spare. Is good for large file downloads like video, typically provided by a modem and phone line installation.

• Cable – provided by Cable TV companies with a Hybrid-Fiber Coax connection. It provides speeds faster than DSL which typically range from 4Mbps to 8Mbps. Increases speeds of large download and uploads.

• Fiber – The future of the Internet rests with the fiber connection. Fiber must be run to your home or business and provides speeds of 30Mbps download and 5Mbps upload.

US Global Ranking

It can be seen in the accompanying graph, (Courtesy Akamai 2010), that global connection speeds are much higher in countries like South Korea, Hong connection-speed-country.pngKong, Japan and many other countries. In fact, the US is ranked 11th in the Top 10 Countries – Average Connection Speed –Q4 09.

From an economic standpoint, the US must move to change its bandwidth competitiveness on a global scale. Many conclude that a free and competitive business model of the US has kept us behind the curve in Internet speed, access and adoption. Enter the National Broadband Plan, developed by the FCC, to change our status in all aspects of the Internet. A comprehensive road-map that directs the adoption of Internet standards to take us through the next 10 years to improve speeds, accessibility, and universal adoption for both business and personal use.


The uses of fast bandwidth can be chronicled in forward thinking experts who realize to inevitable potential  to change the business and personal use of bandwidth can change our lives, from energy conservation through monitoring and applications , remote medical monitoring and diagnosis, B2B applications to strengthen collaboration, and remote educational advances through e-learning. These applications all have the potential to advance the U.S. in job creation and a global competitive advantage.

Infrastructure Upgrades

Unfortunately, due to a lack of wide-spread competition within network provider footprints our Bandwidth does not compare to a more government oversight approach adopted in other developed nations. While the FCC is looking to change the dynamics in competition, while mandating future bandwidth speeds in measureable increments of time; it will be incumbent on Internet Service Providers to upgrade their networks sooner rather than later.

• The Cable Industry has approached Internet upgrades with the advent of Docsis3 (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), permitting the addition of high-speed data transfer over a Cable TV system.

Verizon is accomplishing the task by upgrading to FIOS (Fiber-to-the-Home) approach, using the future or (end-game) solution, which most operators will move toward eventually.

AT&T has adopted the U-Verse solution which uses IP (Internet Protocol) to deliver its high-speed Internet service.

The bottom line remains that without a comprehensive plan by Internet Service Providers to continue an aggressive infrastructure improvement strategy, the US will continue to lag behind globally in bandwidth speeds without proper upgrade incentives, which could put us at a distinct disadvantage in a fast growing global economy.

Cisco Employee

Hi Leonard

so do you think using "average connection speed" is the correct KPI for measuring mobile broadband consumption? The probabilistic nature of RF coverage certainly complicates the mobile analysis and we have surely seen the signaling traffic being blamed for some of the iphone loading issues.

Any view on the key KPIs should we be using to benchmark mobile broadband performance?



Hey Mark,

Thanks for the great comment.

It is important for companies view the important aspect of KPI's not only as a short-term solution, but a long-term one as well.

To that end I'm attaching a link to;

A PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS FOR UMTS PACKET SWITCHED NETWORK BASED ON MULTIVARIATE KPIS from the International Journal of Next Generation Network (IJNGN), Vol.2, No.1, March 2010.

Author: Ye Ouyang and M. Hosein Fallah, Ph.D., P.E. Howe School of Technology Management Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ, USA 07030

Hope this is of some help.


Hey Mark,

Average broadband speeds can be decieving to some degree. Since the US has a widely dispersed geographical population with many rural areas, as well as urban ones; the numbers that Akamai is referencing could be skewed. While metopolitain and urban centers have much faster speeds and availability than rural areas, speeds could be averaged down as a result. With that said, the US may not be in a true sense, as low on the scale as projected with respect to population density.

The KPI's that are inherent in providing a snapshot of speeds and reliable connectivity are:

Network Availability

Speed Link

Service Availability (In %)



     Download Speed (kbps/Mbps)

     Upload Speed (kbps/Mbps)

     Upload/Download Ratio

     Contention Ratio

     Round Trip Time (RTT, Milisec)

Jitter (Millisec)

PacketLoss %

Tarriff Comparison

Customer Service

     Unplanned Outage Automation Notice

     Planned Outage Notice

     Automated Ticket System for Complaints

     Response to Assistance Requested

Billing Complaints

Service Provisioning Complaints

Broadband Service Provider (Benchmarking)

Time for Repetition of Experiments (Alternate Days)


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