Content delivery company Akamai has just issued its Q3 2012 "State of the Internet" report, and with it comes some promising signs that "high broadband" Internet connections are on the up. The report doesn't mention what caused the growth, but between Q2 and Q3 of last year, the number of people equipped with a 10Mbit/s+ connection rose 8.8% to settle in at 11%. A major gain for certain, and one that leads us to highly anticipate the company's next report to see if the trend continues.
Overall, however, things are still a little depressing on the speed front. 41% of the the users Akamai was able to monitor were equipped with ~4Mbit/s connections - just enough to stream a modest HD 720p movie reliably. During Q3, Asian countries once again led the pack with some impressive averages. The average speed in South Korea? 14.7Mbit/s. Japan sits at 10.7Mbit/s and Hong Kong, 8.9Mbit/s. Note that these are averages, so even faster speeds would be very common in these countries.
While the gain in "high broadband" is nice to see, it's a trend that needs to continue if cloud services are to become a normal part of everyone's lives. At 4Mbit/s, which 41% of people are equipped with, we're essentially at a threshold where if someone in the house is watching a movie, say via Netflix, no one else can use the connection. Even "high bandwidth" homes with multiple users can experience the strain. While two people may be able to stream their own movies fine, it pretty-well wipes out the chance of a third person downloading something in the background, or maybe even gaming online.
These scenarios are based on current implementations of streaming movies, however. Things will become worse when 1080p streaming becomes more prevalent, where a reasonably-encoded stream could weigh in at 10Mbit/s itself.
Of course, this is just the beginning of the problem for a lot of people. For those, speeds are not the real issue, but bandwidth limitations imposed by their ISP. In Canada, UK, Australia and many other countries, most ISPs come equipped with tight bandwidth limitations. If you happen to live in one of these countries and have an ISP that allows you 100GB transfer per month, you're actually quite lucky - but that won't go very far in a busy household.