The U.S. ranked 10th in 2016 in terms of fixed broadband download speeds out of the 29 countries studied by the FCC’s International Bureau for the agency’s sixth international broadband report, which was mandated by the Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA).
In addition to speeds, the report also compares pricing and deployment.
The weighted average download speed for the U.S. in 2016 was 55.07 megabits per second. Luxembourg ranked first with 375.78 Mbps — which was three times the speed in second-place Japan (102.34 Mbps). Iceland followed in third place with 90.36 Mbps, then came South Korea (86.98 Mbps), Switzerland (79.58 Mbps), Sweden (73.81 Mbps), the Netherlands (67.54 Mbps), Denmark (61.49 Mbps), and Spain (57.86 Mbps).
In terms of mobile broadband speeds, “the United States ranked 24th out of 28 countries in both 2016 (19.98 Mbps) and 2015 (15.58 Mbps), and 18th in 2014 (12.62 Mbps). Actual mobile download speeds in the United States increased by approximately 58 percent from 2014 to 2016. In 2016, the median weighted download speed for the United States increased to 19.36 Mbps from 12.62 Mbps in 2014, and its ranking decreased from 17th to 24th out of the 28 comparison countries,” the bureau said in the report released late Friday in General docket 17-199.
The 28 countries selected for speed comparison to the U.S. were Chile, Mexico, and the follow member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The FCC obtained actual speed data from Ookla for the fixed and mobile international speed comparisons.
On pricing for fixed broadband services, the bureau found the U.S. “ranks 18th out of 23 countries that offer fixed standalone broadband plans with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and less than 100 Mbps, and 26th out of 28 countries that have fixed standalone plans with download speeds of 100 Mbps or greater.” In the ranking, the least expensive country was ranked first. Comparisons were done between communities of comparable population size, population density, topography, and demographic profile.
“For standalone broadband across all speed tiers, the United States ranks 21st out of the 29 countries,” the report says.
The report also calculates a hedonic price index for each country.
“We adjust broadband prices for differences across countries in demographic and cost profiles using a hedonic regression. The hedonic regression also allows us to adjust for observable differences in broadband quality across countries (e.g., the speed and usage limits of each plan) and generate prices for a set of standardized broadband plans in every country to facilitate comparisons. We then calculate a hedonic price index to compare prices across countries. This index estimates what the average U.S. consumer would expect to pay for their service in each country if that country had demographic, cost, and quality profiles similar to the United States,” it says.
“After adjusting for differences across countries in the cost and demographic factors outlined in the BDIA, as well as differences in broadband plan characteristics, our hedonic price index estimates that, for U.S. broadband service levels, the United States ranks 14th out of the 29 countries,” it adds.
“If in our hedonic analysis we then further adjust prices for the quality of broadband content, we find that the United States ranks 7th among the 29 countries,” it says.
As for pricing for mobile broadband services, “[f]or individual plans with usage allowances of 2 GB or less, the United States ranks 18th out of the 22 countries that offer such plans,” the report says. “For the highest usage individual plans with data usage allowances greater than 10 GB, we find that the United States ranks 21st out of the 28 countries that offer plans with such high usage limit,” it adds.
The mobile hedonic price index puts the U.S. at 20th out of 29 countries.
“If we further adjust mobile prices for content quality differences, our mobile hedonic price index finds that the United States ranks 10th across the 29 countries at an average per-line monthly price of $60.63,” the report says.
On the subject of fixed broadband deployment, the report compares the U.S. to 21 European countries, using data gathered by the FCC and by the European Commission in June 2015 and June 2016, focusing in the U.S. on “broadband with download speeds 30 Mbps or higher to match the European definition of high-speed broadband. To match the fixed technologies used in the EC Broadband Report, we do not include satellite technology in the comparison of the United States and the EU21,” the bureau says in the report.
“In the United States, fixed high-speed broadband reached 90 percent of all households and 62 percent of rural households by June 2016, which is up from 89 percent of all households and 58 percent of rural households as of June 2015. In the EU21, fixed high-speed broadband reached 76 percent of all households and 41 percent of rural households by June 2016, which is up from 72 percent of all households and 30 percent of rural households as of June 2015,” the report says.
“The U.S. deployment gap between non-rural and rural areas decreased from 39 percentage points as of June 2015 to 35 percentage points as of June 2016. In the EU21, the gap between non-rural and rural areas decreased from 48 percentage points as of June 2015 to 42 percentage points as of June 2016,” it adds.
“The United States ranked 11th out of the 22 countries in 2015 and 10th out of the 22 countries in 2016 with respect to fixed high-speed broadband deployment. The United States ranked 10th out of the 22 countries in 2015 and 9th out of the 22 countries in 2016 in terms of its rural coverage of high-speed broadband,” it continues.
As for mobile broadband deployment, the report finds that mobile LTE coverage in the U.S. “was widely deployed by the end of June 2016, reaching over 99 percent of all households and 98 percent of rural households. In the EU21, during the same period, mobile LTE coverage reached 97 percent of all households and 83 percent of rural households.”
With respect to broadband adoption rates, the report says that “measured by the number of subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, the United States ranked 16th out of 35 countries in 2016 for percentage of population with overall fixed broadband subscriptions, with 32.8 broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Switzerland ranked first in 2016 in fixed broadband subscription penetration with 50.1 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. In 2015, the United States ranked 16th of 35 countries with 31.77 fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.”
The report also discusses various regulatory and policy developments in different countries.
On the subject of 5G development, the report says, “Approaches to 5G development and the status of development efforts vary across countries. The United States has taken steps to make available low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum for next-generation wireless networks. For instance, in 2017, the Commission completed the auction for new 600 MHz licenses and granted licenses for the 600 MHz Band (low-band). On August 3, 2017, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on ways to expand opportunities for next generation services — particularly wireless broadband services — in spectrum bands between 3.7 and 24 GHz (i.e., mid-band spectrum). On November 16, 2017, the Commission adopted a Report and Order that, among other things, makes available 1,700 megahertz of millimeter wave (mmW) spectrum for terrestrial next generation wireless use, including 5G (high-band spectrum), which was in addition to the nearly 11 gigahertz of spectrum opened up in July 2016 for wireless broadband operations in frequencies above 24 GHz (high-band spectrum). Finally, we note that, in April 2016, the Commission created a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service, establishing an innovative three-tier framework to enable shared wireless broadband use of the 3550-3700 MHz band (3.5 GHz band); the Commission is currently considering several rule changes that would further facilitate the implementation of 5G networks in this band.”
It adds, “Other countries, including Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, and France, among others, are in the midst of allocating additional spectrum across various bands to support 5G services. In Japan, with guidance from the Ministry of Internal Affairs & Communications (MIC), Japan’s three wireless operators — NTT DOCOMO, KDDI, and SoftBank Mobile — are committed to launching commercial 5G services by the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. In partnership with industry, the South Korean government aims to introduce trial 5G services by the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and to launch full commercial 5G services by December 2020. In January 2017, South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) announced plans to allocate an additional 1,300 megahertz of spectrum for 5G services by 2018.”
The report continues, “In September 2016, the EC adopted a 5G Action Plan, which encouraged EU Member States to develop national 5G roadmaps by the end of 2017, and to identify at least one major city to be ‘5G-enabled’ by the end of 2018, with the goal of expanding 5G coverage to all urban areas and major transportation hubs by 2025. The plan also sought to identify ‘pioneer spectrum bands’ to harmonize the initial launch of 5G services across Europe.
“Other countries are also in the process of developing policy and regulatory frameworks to facilitate the development of next-generation wireless technologies. For example, in March 2017, the United Kingdom (UK) issued a national 5G strategy focused on three main outcomes: accelerating the deployment of 5G networks; maximizing the productivity and efficiency benefits to the UK from 5G; and creating new opportunities for UK businesses at home and abroad, and encouraging inward investment,” the report says. “In July 2017, Spain launched a public consultation on the development of a national 5G plan. In October 2017, Australia introduced a 5G strategy, outlining government actions to support the timely rollout of 5G services.”
“At the international level, the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) and Regional Groups continue to focus on the harmonization of spectrum bands and their conditions of use in order to promote the timely implementation of technological changes and the benefits of economies of scale. The ITU-R has created an agenda item for the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) to consider spectrum for IMT-2020 (5G) in several frequency ranges above 24 GHz. In addition, administrations and industry are participating in regional bodies committed to the advancement of 5G and building consensus towards standardization, spectrum, research and development, and cooperation with other strategic industry sectors. Some examples include the 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP), the 5G Forum, and 5G Americas, which host meetings and summits to harmonize global efforts,” it concludes on that subject. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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