Of 262 million U.S. broadband access connections, there were almost 65 million fixed and 64 million mobile connections with download speeds at or above 3 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds at or above 768 kbps as compared to 51 million fixed and 31 million mobile connections a year earlier, according to Federal Communications Commission data.
In other words, fixed and mobile networks supply an equal number of Internet access connections 3 Mbps and faster. To be sure, mobile and fixed access services are not equivalent in cost per megabyte or size of usage allowances.
But mobile has become a significant supplier of “faster” connections. For example, of connections offering 6 Mbps or faster service, fixed networks supply about 41 million connections, while mobile networks supply about 32 million connections.
For a historically bandwidth-limited sort of network, that improvement on the mobile front is significant.
To be sure, mobile Internet access speeds are underrepresented at 6 Mbps and faster, and over-represented among connections of 3 Mbps and lower speeds. But mobile Internet connections already represented 65 percent of all Internet access connections in the United States, at the end of 2012.
In December 2012, 21 percent of reported fixed connections (19.3 million connections) were
slower than 3 Mbps in the downstream direction, 16 percent (15.2 million connections) were at least 3 Mbps in the downstream direction but slower than 6 Mbps, and 63 percent (58 million connections) were at least 6 Mbps in the downstream direction, the FCC reports.
It might not be clear from the FCC statistics, but progress, measured in terms of typical Internet access speeds, has grown surprisingly fast in the U.S. market. That might come as a shock to some.
In fact, Internet service provider speeds have grown at about the rate you would expect for a Moore’s Law driven product. That should be a surprise, since access networks are notoriously expensive and take some time to build. That noted, from 2000 to 2012, the typical U.S. access connection speed grew by about two to three orders of magnitude.
Retail prices also now provide dramatically more bandwidth per dollar. In fact, people now pay less for a 40 Mbps access service than they used to pay for a 512 kbps access service.
Though the FCC report does not highlight the rapid changes in access speeds, progress has been rapid.
In August 2000, only 4.4 percent of U.S. households had a home broadband connection, while 41.5 percent of households had dial-up access.
A decade later, dial-up subscribers declined to 2.8 percent of households in 2010, and 68.2 percent of households subscribed to broadband service.
Though it perhaps is understandable that people expect more, and now, a bit of perspective probably is in order.
Internet access connections that essentially double speed every three to five years, while also featuring lower prices per unit of speed, are impressive. At those rates of change, gigabit connections will be common by about 2020.