The average fixed internet connection speed worldwide, as measured by Akamai, is now over 7 Mbps, a 15% increase compared to the previous year. 8 out of 10 connections are over 4 Mbps, which is generally sufficient for services like Netflix. Many connections are far faster than this, so it is generally becoming easier to deliver high quality video online.
The Akamai State of the Internet Connectivity report is based on data from users connecting to the Akamai content distribution network in each country. It does not represent overall internet adoption or the speed tiers offered.
However, it provides a reasonable proxy for the effective speeds that internet users may experience on average in each of the countries covered and the worldwide average, based on over 800 million IPv4 internet addresses served.
The global average connection speed was 7.2 Mbps, which was up 2.3% on the previous quarter and up 15% year on year.
The United States entered the top 10 regions in the world by speed, displacing the Netherlands, with a quarterly gain of 8.8%, up 22% in a year at 18.7 Mbps.
The average speed in the United Kingdom was 16.9 Mbps,up 3.6% on the previous quarter, a 13% increase year on year, ranking it 15 in the world, just below the Czech Republic, and placed at number 9 in Europe.
South Korea continued to have the highest average connection speed in the world at 28.6 Mbps, a 9.3% increase compared to the previous quarter.
These are average connection speeds, and as one might expect some users have access to much faster connections, while some are still considerably below these speeds.
In South Korea, 40% of connections were above 25 Mbps, compared to 12% globally, while 69% were above 15 Mbps.
48% of connections in the United States were above 15 :Mbps; while 21% were above 25 Mbps.
Four out of ten connections in the United Kingdom were above 15 Mbps, while six out of ten were above 10 Mbps.
Globally, over eight out of ten connections were over 4 Mbps, compared to nine out of ten in the United States or the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom ranks 29 in the world and 12 in Europe in terms of countries with connections of above 4 Mbps.
So, while some users may still be struggling to receive internet connections capable of delivering high quality video, the vast majority of those connecting to Akamai can.
Again, this is not strictly nationally representative, but it is a reasonable guide to the overall state of internet access.
This suggests that the vast majority of those connecting to Akamai can already receive high quality video, which accounts for the growth in the adoption of video services like Netflix.
Given the apparently adequate network provision, one might therefore question whether there is a need to improve the efficiency of video delivery, through new compression schemes or distribution protocols.
Of course there is still a need to address those with lower access speeds, although they may be resigned to not being able to stream high quality video until their broadband improves.
Then there is the question of countries where internet access infrastructure may be less developed. Yet even India, ranked 69, sees an average connection speed of 6.5 Mbps, while the Philippines, ranked 100, sees 5.5 Mbps.
There are still some countries, like Paraguay, ranked 148, where the average connection speed is 1.4 Mbps and only 2.8% of connections were above 4Mbps.
Another issue is mobile networks, where the assumption is often that connectivity is more limited.
The United Kingdom had the fastest average mobile connection speed at 26.0 Mbps, down slightly on the previous quarter, with Germany ranked second at 24.1 Mbps. The average in the United States was 10.7nbsp;Mbps. In India the average was 4.9 Mbps; while in Paraguay it was 7.5 Mbps.
Now, these averages do not reflect the general availability of such speeds or geographic coverage. In many places it is still not possible to place or receive a mobile phone call, let alone watch video over the network.
Akamai is simply measuring the effective throughput of those that are able to connect through its content distribution network, which is just one way in which users may receive online video services.
Another way of measuring online video performance is the Netflix ISP Speed Index, which measures the average effective throughput for Netflix services by different internet service providers.
Comcast ranks first in the United States, with an average of 3.92 Mbps. Virgin Media ranks first in the United Kingdom, with 3.90 Mbps, just ahead of BT with 3.81 Mbps. Even Switzerland, which ranks top, only comes in with an average of 4.28 Mbps, with the fastest service provider recording 4.37 :Mbps.
Yet Comcast offers packages up to 350 Mbps, with gigabit speeds in some areas. Virgin Media offers packages up to 300 Mbps, while BT generally only offers up to 76 Mbps over its copper network, although it is promising over 300 Mbps for some customers in the future.
However, nearly 100 million Netflix subscribers appear to be sufficiently satisfied with a service delivered at average speeds of under 4 Mbps, which is typically lower than high-definition broadcast television.
Those with faster connections will be able to benefit from higher quality. Netflix recommends a steady internet connection speed of 25 Mbps or higher to stream Ultra HD.
Such speeds are currently available to about one in eight users connecting to Akamai worldwide.
The reality is that your mileage may vary according to where you are in the world and how you connect to the internet, but on average, network speeds are now more than sufficient to deliver high quality video, in some cases very high quality video.
The real issue is now not so much speed as reliability, consistency, and geographic coverage, which remain patchy in some places.
The State of the Internet Q1 2017 report is available from the Akamai web site. The Netflix ISP Speed Index is available online through the Netflix web site.