Akamai State of the Internet: Q1 2016

Every quarter, Akamai releases an update to its State of the Internet report that tends to show the continuation of several established trends:

  1. Average Internet speeds go up about 10% around the world;
  2. The US ranks solidly in the top 10% of all nations and in the top 1% of low population density nations;
  3. Attacks increase in intensity;
  4. Journalists, bloggers, and policy analysts still have no idea what Akamai is measuring.

Wired Broadband

Here are the basics from the US perspective:

  • United States ranks 16th in the world in Average Connection Speed (web speed) at 15.3 Mbps, up 7.7% from the preceding quarter and 29% from the the year-ago quarter.
  • US ranks 22nd in Average Peak Connection Speed (broadband speed) at 67.8 Mbps, up 10% from the preceding quarter and 27% from the year-ago quarter.
  • US ranks first in number of IPv4 addresses seen by Akamai.
  • US ranks 6th in percentage of connections using IPv6, at 17%, up 0.7% from the preceding quarter.
  • US is the 2nd source country for DDoS attacks (after China.)
  • US is the number one source country for web attacks, most aimed at retailers.
  • The US is slipping in the global rankings since the good old days of Title I.

Within the country we see:

  • Verizon Wireless leads in IPv6 adoption at 68%
  • District Of Columbia leads in Average Connection Speed (web speed) and Average Peak Connection Speed (broadband speed)
  • The ten states with the highest broadband speeds are District Of Columbia, Delaware, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Utah, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Washington, and New York.
  • Silicon Valley does not stand out in broadband speed.
  • If we combine US states with foreign countries, the Top 16 list includes 8 US states and 8 foreign nations.


Akamai Global Top 16

Akamai Global Top 16. Source: Author’s analysis of Akamai State of the Internet, Q1 2016

Once again, we see that Japan is outside the top 10 after sitting atop the global speed list for many, many years. This probably doesn’t cause much sadness in Japan, however, as innovation and cell network quality are both perfectly fine.

Mobile Broadband

Akamai’s mobile data is a lot more varied than its wireline data in terms of the variation between Average Connection Speed and Average Peak Connection Speed. As Akamai has explained, the difference between these two figures comes down to this: Average Connection Speed predicts the speed of web page loading while Average Peak Connection Speed is a prediction about broadband pipe capacity. (We did a podcast with Dave Belson, the author the Akamai report, here, so you don’t have to take this on faith.) In nations with good coverage by Akamai and other content delivery networks, the two figures are related by a simple multiple. Delaware has ACS of 21.2 and APCS of 92.2, so the ratio is 1:4.3. That’s pretty typical of mainstream locations. Singapore deviates because of its location and size, with a ratio of nearly 9, and you rarely see that much variation in wired networks.

Mobile networks introduce additional variable such as proxies that hide parts of the end-to-end path from Akamai’s servers and variations from users per tower, the spectrum inventory, and the propagation of signals across the terrain. Once again, Singapore stands out because it has issues with spectrum inventory; it’s a small, island nation bordered by two much larger neighbors who are often quite hostile to Singapore’s interests, so it doesn’t have the ability to license as much spectrum as other nations do. Consequently, Singapore scores low on Average Mobile Connection Speed at 6.7 Mbps, although it shows a quite respectable 62.2 average peak. Bear in mind that Singapore’s Average Peak for wired, 147 Mbps, is the highest ever seen in all the years Akamai has been reporting on broadband speed. (And yes, I have done consulting for Singapore as a member of its Regulatory and Economists Panel. I’m biased, and proudly so.)

The US isn’t far behind Singapore in mobile average connection speed at 5.1 Mbps, but considerably behind on mobile peak connection speed at 19.8 Mbps. Across the world, mobile average ranges from x to y and mobile peak ranges from 171.6 Mbps in Germany to 11.7 Mbps in Ghana. Germany’s wired average peak is well below its mobile average peak at at mere 53.9 Mbps, short of the US figure of 67.8 Mbps.

In terms of regions, these are the leaders in mobile average connection speeds:

  • Africa: Kenya, 5.9 Mbps
  • Asia Pacific: South Korea, 13.0 Mbps
  • Europe: United Kingdom, 27.9 Mbps
  • North America: Canada and Puerto Rico, 8.8 Mbps
  • South America: Paraguay, 6.1 Mbps

England may not do well at soccer, but its mobile networks seem to be performing nicely.

The missing figure from the mobile survey is data volume, probably the single most important figure for mobile networks. Historically, Japan and the US have the most heavily used networks, and we pay a price in terms of performance for that fact.

Major Gaffes

Part of the pleasure of reading and writing about the Akamai reports is seeing the errors in media coverage by reporters who haven’t bothered to unlock the mysteries of Average Connection Speed and Average Peak Connection speed as we have. Here are some of the most amusing examples of misreporting on the current edition:

Despite Akamai’s location in the Massachusetts, a potentially advantageous position that would put US mobile internet users geographically closer to its servers, the country could manage peak speeds of 19.8 Mbps — likely in part due to the comparatively higher costs of wireless data speed in the US compared to much of the world. – “UK has fastest mobile internet while US lags behind, says report.” Rich McCormick, The Verge.

Ahem, the blogger doesn’t get the fact that Akamai is a CDN with a global footprint. Does paying more get you lower speeds? Hmm…maybe that net neutrality order is as bad as the economists say.

According to a new report out by Akamai, the average internet download speed in the United States is 15.3 Megabits per second (Mbps). – “US internet speed gains ground“, The Hill, Mario Trujillo.

No, the “average Internet download speed” would be closer to our 67.8 Mbps Average Peak Connection Speed. This blogger is a repeat offender because I emailed him about that faulty correlation after a previous Akamai story.

Across the Americas, the top two countries were the United States and Canada: The average broadband connection speed in the US was 15.3Mbps, with a peak speed of 67.8Mbps, while Canada recorded an average broadband speed of 14.3Mbps and a peak speed of 59.6Mbps. – “Australian peak mobile speed highest in APAC: Akamai“, ZDNet, Corinne Reichert.

Nope, there’s no such thing as an Akamai “average broadband connection speed”. There’s an average of all TCP connections running in parallel over a broadband pipe and there’s an average of the highest speed TCP connections seen. The latter (average peak connection speed) is the broadband capacity, not the former.

Akamai, creator of globally utilized network optimization and analytics tools, is in a position to gather a very large amount of data on internet usage, such as speed, connection quality, connection usage, network congestion and other metrics that speak to overall network quality. Naturally, with their software being found in a large number of servers that have applications in the mobile world, they are able to analyze mobile internet as well. – “Akamai Shows UK Has Fastest Average Mobile Web Speed“, Android Headlines, Daniel Fuller.

Sorry, Akamai is a CDN, not a software company. Akamai’s software runs on Akamai’s servers, of which there are many.

Respectable Coverage

Free clue to assignments editors: give the Akamai story to somebody who can spell CDN. Here are two stories that got it right: “Akamai: Net speeds doubled since 2012 Olympics,” Advanced Television; “Akamai: global average connection speed up 12 percent, bye bye IPv4“, TechCrunch, Lucia Maffei. It’s not hard if you work at it.

The major takeaway from the Q1 2016 Akamai report is that the rate of improvement in US broadband has slowed down since the passage of the 2015 Open Internet Order by the FCC. But that’s a topic for another post.