Blogs & Comment

Canada ranks average in new Internet report

But compared to South Korea and Hong Kong, Canada and the U.S. look like slowpokes.

(Photo: Jacom Stephens)

The latest “State of the Internet” report from content delivery provider Akamai Technologies is out and, as usual, it’s full of interesting data (registration required). The headline from the report, which focuses almost exclusively on speeds, is that Hong Kong has overtaken South Korea as the new wired speed king, with average peak connections clocking in at 49.3 megabits per second. Canada and the United States look like slowpokes in comparison, at 25.4 and 28.7 Mbps respectively.

Speaking of Canada, there isn’t a lot in the report on the country, but there are a few interesting tidbits. Canada actually ranks eighth out of 49 countries in the number of Internet subscribers who have connections faster than four megabits per second, which Akamai now considers the baseline for qualifying as broadband (up from two megabits in previous reports). This amounts to about 68% of subscribers.

That’s the only measure where Canada rates well, though. About 11% of Canadians subscribe to Akamai’s new definition of high-speed, or connections above 10 Mbps (up from five), which is good for 13th place. That’s not terrible, but it’s certainly nowhere near the upper echelon. South Korea is still the leader, with more than 53% of subscribers on those faster speeds.

Canada is similarly middling in perhaps Akamai’s most important measure—average connection speed—with 6.5 Mbps. Among all 49 countries, that’s enough to rank 12th, but when the less developed regions of the Middle East and South America are removed, that drops to 12th out of a field of 35. When those countries are further whittled down to just OECD members, Canada rates 11th out of 31.

Where the bad news really comes in is on the mobile side. Despite Canadian wireless carriers saying they have some of the most advanced networks in the world, the country’s showing is nothing short of poor. Out of the 86 carriers in 55 countries, the one Canadian carrier tested placed a terrible 69th in average connection speed with 1,018 kilobits per second.

That’s worse than carriers in Pakistan, El Salvador and Uruguay, among others. And as if to poor salt on that wound, the same Canadian carrier was second last in overall peak connection speed at 2,485 Kbps. Only a South African provider scored worse.

On the one hand, this is a difficult result to believe. I have, for example, played with LTE devices where speeds have routinely reached close to 20 Mbps. That, and the fact that only one Canadian carrier is listed in Akamai’s results while other countries have multiple providers counted, makes you wonder if there’s something wrong with the study’s numbers.

On the other hand, though, the speeds reported seem consistent with what I see anecdotally. Here, for example, is a speed test I just did on my iPhone 4S. It’s possible that those super-fast LTE speeds are only happening because few people are using the networks, whereas the slower 3G and HSPA networks are overcrammed with users, hence the slow speeds.

Either way, it’s important to remember that Akamai’s report focuses solely on speed. There’s no mention of prices or usage caps, both of which are becoming considerably more important when it comes to overall Internet experiences. Numerous studies have found that Canadians pay more for less than subscribers in many other jurisdictions, with my own recent comparisons to U.S. services showing just that.