Mobile Broadband Now Shapes Global "Speed" Metrics

A 2010 study by Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, found fixed network speeds were about four times faster than mobile speeds. The difference in page loading speeds was more dramatic. Fixed network web pages loaded 17 times faster than the mobile pages.

But simple logic also suggests that measures of broadband speed are becoming quite a bit more nuanced than in the past, as the “typical” form of broadband access becomes a “mobile” connection, not a fixed line connection.

That does not mean the absolute volume of data consumption is related in a linear way to the number of subscribers, only that “typical access speed” is a harder thing to describe, than once was the case. Some 84 percent of smart phone users say they use their smart phones to access the Internet, for example.

By the end of 2011, total global mobile subscriptions reached nearly six billion by end 2011, corresponding to a global penetration of 86 percent, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

Growth was driven by developing countries, which accounted for more than 80 percent of the 660 million new mobile subscriptions added in 2011. That is significant. To begin with, mobile connections typically run slower than fixed connections, and developing market connections tend to run slower than connections in developed markets.
That might explain why, in the third quarter of 2012, the global average connection speed declined 6.8 percent to 2.8 Mbps, and the global average peak connection speed declined 1.4 percent to 15.9 Mbps, says Akamai.

According to Ericsson, mobile data use has grown exponentially since about 2008.
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