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Whose Internet Burns the Brightest?

China Surpasses US in Overall Bandwidth

We've been integrating statistics and deriving rankings from them for a couple of years now. Our process is to look at national ICT infrastructures on a relative - rather than absolute - basis, to provide a fair way to examine which countries are doing the mos with what they have.

Thus, South Korea tops our rankings, despite its position as the 15th-largest overall economy in the world. Relatively speaking, South Korea is the champ.

Perhaps more surprisingly, you'll find tiny Estonia and New Zealand getting the silver and bronze in our rankings. The US is nowhere to be found among the leaders. Neither are the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) or MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) nations - relatively speaking, all of them could stand significant improvement.

But it would be good to know who are the biggest kids on the block, if not the most adept? Another way of posing the question would be "Whose Internet Burns the Brightest?"

By integrating population, average bandwidth, and Internet access, such a measure can be found.

China comes up the winner, with the US in second place. That is, China is consuming more bandwidth these days than the US - Great Firewall or not, there are more gigabits flowing throughout the Middle Kingdom than through America the Beautiful. (Note the pun: the Chinese word for United States, mei guo, is literally "beautiful country.")

This is surely a harbinger of the day when the Chinese economy will surpass that of the United States - something I still doubt is possible. But our numbers show that in the raw Internet economy, China is already the world leader.

The Top 10 in National Bandwidth

  1. China

  2. United States

  3. Japan

  4. South Korea

  5. Germany

  6. Russia

  7. UK

  8. France

  9. Taiwan

  10. Brazil


These findings actually astonish me. They show many things other than China's surprising lead:

  • South Korea is truly a force with which to be reckoned

  • Japan is still an incredibly dynamic place, despite its poor economic reputation over the past two "lost" decades

  • Vive la France. Always performs better than most Americans probably realize

  • Taiwan kicks butt and takes names by most relative measures, despite its smallish population and longstanding diplomatic isolation

  • Russia and Brazil, despite their shortcomings, are to be taken seriously because of their sheer size.

Average bandwidth is a tricky thing to measure, and can change dramatically over a short period of time. We use publicly available statistics from Ookla, Inc. We understand that the information we present here is more like an inexact social science than a precise engineering exercise.

But, as with all of our research, this measure provides a nice, general look and can start serious conversations.

Again, the measure I describe here is driven to a significant degree by population size. But all the peoples of the world deserve the benefits that a strong national Internet backbone can bring. This is why the core of our research is relative, to give those high-performing smaller and/or developing nations a more level playing field in which to compete for global investment, interest, and recognition.

Contact Me on Twitter

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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