Akamai has announced variable bit rate video streaming support for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, following their recent operating system update to enable high quality video delivery over standard HTTP protocols. Generally, a move towards delivering chunks of media that can be cached on standard web servers, rather than streaming media servers, enables video to be scaled across global networks of tens of thousands of distributed servers.

“Apple’s extensive support for new web standards like HTML 5 and HTTP streaming of live and on-demand video to the iPhone and iPod touch has transformed the quality of video content that consumers can now view while mobile,” said Tim Napoleon, chief strategist for digital media at Akamai. “To be able to watch video anytime, anywhere at a quality this high is nothing short of amazing.”

Akamai has put together a portal of examples of live and on-demand video for the iPhone. In tests, informitv experienced a few glitches, although these could be attributed to conditions anywhere on the network.

Akamai monitors the average connection speeds of end users to its globally deployed server network, providing a unique view of the global internet. In its State of the Internet report for the first quarter of 2009, Akamai says the global average connection speed of 1.7Mbps is up over 10% and nearly 30% year on year, although more than 120 countries still had averages under 1Mbps.

South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong had average speeds of 11, 8 and 7.6Mbps respectively, closely followed by Sweden at 6.9Mbps. The United States ranked 18, with an average speed of 4.2Mbps, which is slower than Romania or the Czech Republic, but faster than the United Kingdom at 3.7Mbps. Higher speeds were seen from some individual states on the east coast, such as Delaware, New Hampshire and New York, from where half or more of all connections were above 5Mbps, averaging around 6-7Mbps.

Globally, around a fifth of the internet connections seen by Akamai are above 5Mbps, which is up 30% on the previous year. Half or more of broadband connections are faster than 5Mbps in Japan, South Korea and Sweden. Just over a quarter of those in the United States are above 5Mbps. The majority of these faster connections are in the range 5-10Mbps, with speeds above 25Mbps accounting for 12% of connections in South Korea but just 1% in the United States.

The United States accounts for over a quarter of nearly 420 million unique internet addresses seen by Akamai, followed by China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

The recent Michael Jackson memorial coverage generated considerable online video traffic. Akamai reports that it delivered 2.1 million live and on-demand streams in Flash and Windows Media formats, peaking at a rate of more than 2 terabits per second across the Akamai network. Akamai served nearly 4 million visitors a minute at peak, of which 3.3 million came from within the United States.

“This is just the beginning of what is possible when broadcasting live to audiences around the world,” said Robert Hughes of Akamai.

The Michael Jackson coverage was still some way behind the inauguration of President Obama in January, which peaked at over 7 million simultaneous streams, the majority of them live, delivered over the Akamai network.

The latest quarterly report on The State of the Internet is available for download from the Akamai web site.