Japan's place in broadband

Mike Galbraith
22 Nov 2010

Japanese broadband planners must surely be encouraged by the results of the latest global broadband quality survey.

The study, by Oxford University's Said Business School, placed Japan third this year, behind South Korea and Hong Kong. Two years ago it was in first place, but fell to seventh last year.

"In fact, Japan is arguably first in the ranking when you consider its large size and dispersed population and its relatively low urban density compared to other developed economies," said Fernando Gil de Bernabe, a senior director at Cisco, which sponsored the research.

The report found that average download throughput this year improved by 42% to 24 Mbps and upload throughput increased 61% to 12 Mbps.

Nagoya, Yokohama and Osaka ranked second, third and fourth in the world in broadband quality and Tokyo sixth.

Japan has long claimed to have the most advanced broadband network in the world. It has a 66% broadband penetration rate and 18.6 million FTTH subs, 80% of whom have access to 200 Mbps download speeds.

Even neighboring South Korea, widely acknowledged as the world's broadband leader, has only 2.95 million FTTH subscribers - a little more than the number of new FTTH subscribers in Japan in the last 12 months.

Under rated

Despite these achievements, surveys conducted by organizations like the World Economic Forum (WEF) have consistently rated Japan embarrassingly low. In WEF' Networked Readiness Index 2009- 2010, Japan was ranked 21st.

"Surveys like that of WEF contain both quantitative and qualitative information and those qualitative factors are based on questionnaire surveys which make it difficult to be completely objective," commented Masanori Kondo, of the international affairs division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).

So are the networks of NTT East and West that serve 74.5% of Japan's FTTH subscribers as good as local experts believe?

"The basic equipment enabling FTTH - such as OLTs and ONUs - are primarily standards-based, but then NTT adds features and modifications as requirements to vendors to enhance the functionality and manageability of its services," said George Hoffman, group manager of communications at IDC Japan.

"The resulting network is perhaps highly advanced; however, the equipment is now unique, and essentially not usable or sellable outside of Japan."

Less talked about in Japan is mobile broadband. While the fiber-heavy fixed-line broadband is world-class, when Japanese go online over a mobile network they're getting quality ranked a mere 28th.

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