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Shock report ranks New Zealand 38th for broadband

A fresh perspective has been added to the OECD broadband rankings commonly used to benchmark New Zealand's network capabilities -- and that perspective isn't flattering.

The report comes from network caching company Akamai, which has servers in the network all around the world and says it is well positioned to measure actual network performance.

It also includes non-OECD countries in its statistics.

Akamai ranks New Zealand a low 44th in the world for the percentage of high broadband connections, the percentage of connections of 5Mbit/s or greater speed. When simple broadband of 2Mbit/s is included in the total, New Zealand climbs to 38th.

New Zealand's ratings are too low to rate a mention in the main report, called "The State of the Internet" and published last month, but were provided to Computerworld by Akamai's director of market intelligence, David Belson, who says Akamai has servers in New Zealand to make its measurements.

The report is the first of its kind by Akamai but it plans to publish quarterly updates to track broadband changes and other internet issues.

Globally, South Korea leads the high broadband rankings, with 64% of connections falling into that elite category. Japan followed with 48%, then Hong Kong, with 35%, and Sweden, with 29%.

The global average was 16% for high broadband connections, but in New Zealand only 2.2% of users receive such high-speed service.

When plain broadband is included, 93% of South Koreans enjoy some form of fast internet connectivity, followed by Belgium, Switzerland and Hong Kong, all in the high 80% area.

In contrast, slightly more than 50% of New Zealanders receive such network speeds, compared with a global average of 55%, and the country ranks 38th on Akamai's rankings.

Rosalie Nelson, IDC's telecommunications research manager, says New Zealand is a very different market from many others in such comparisons. Korea, for instance, is a managed economy with high levels of apartment living. Most subscribers are within 4km of an exchange.

"New Zealand, for reasons of population and geographic spread, is very hard to compare," she says. Over 50% of New Zealand homes are more than 2km from an exchange.

"That's why cabinetization is critical," she says. "It underlines the need for the investment we are seeing now."

Incumbent telco Telecom is in the process of a multi-million dollar investment in cabinets to shorten the local loop and bring fiber closer to the home.

"In terms of the scale of the deployment, to the best of my knowledge it is quite unprecedented," Nelson says.

In the latest OECD broadband rankings, which count the number of broadband subscribers, New Zealand was ranked 19th, with almost all of those DSL connections.

In a similar measure, Akamai ranked NZ 21st.