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Up From Down: The State of Japanese Broadband Today

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
broadband

A fter a year in the doldrums, the quality of Japanese broadband has zoomed back to the top of the rankings.

A 2010 report by Said Business School of Oxford University, as reported by Telecom Asia, has ranked the country third in terms of global broadband quality this year, behind South Korea and Hong Kong. In 2008, Japan enjoyed a first-place ranking, but in 2009 it fell to seventh place.

According to the report, average download throughput in 2010 improved by 42 percent to 24 Mbps, while upload throughput increased by 61 percent to 12 Mbps.

As a matter of fact, Fernando Gil de Bernabe, a senior director at Cisco, was quoted by the report as saying that Japan was arguably first in the ranking when certain factors were considered, such as relatively low urban density vis-à-vis other developed countries, large size and dispersed population. The numbers seem to bear this observation out, as Japan boasts a 66 percent broadband penetration rate and 18.6 million subscribers of Fiber to the Home (FTTH) services.

In terms of average net speed by region, in a similar report released by Akamai earlier in 2010, Japan was found to have the third highest average net speed at 7.8 Mbps, behind South Korea’s 12 Mbps and Hong Kong’s 9 Mbps. In addition, in terms of cities, the Akamai report found that more than half of the top 100 fastest wired cities are located in Japan.

But Japan is not resting on its laurels— far from it. Numerous plans are afoot to further improve the state of broadband in the country. For instance, as reported by Japan Today, in November 2010 Softbank Corporation floated a five-year, 500-billion yen plan to work with competitors NTT and KDDI in order to construct a system of fiber-optic cables throughout the country—a so-called “broadband super highway”—to replace existing phone lines. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son submitted this proposal to the government for consideration.

And the need is definitely there for Japan to enact certain improvements. A 2009-2010 survey conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Networked Readiness Index 2009-2010, has rated Japan disappointingly low. The country came in only 21st in this key survey.

Masayoshi Son, discussing Softbank’s proposal, said that a wireless system was of course an alternative, but various technical hurdles, as well as sheer cost, made the selection of a hardwired network a more viable solution. There would appear to be significant opportunities in the Japanese market for expansion in the mobilebroadband domain; as mentioned in the Telecom Asia report, the quality of mobile broadband in Japan is ranked just 28th in the world, far behind that of its world-class fixed-line counterpart.

And similar developments appear to be in the wings for mobile Japanese broadband as well. Softbank, according to Mobile in Japan’s Paul Papadimitriou in an article written in October 2010, may soon be making a bid for ascendancy in the mobilebroadband arena as well. The company, said Papadimitriou, may be looking to purchase bankrupt mobile operator Willcom in order to gain access to Willcom’s four million subscribers and 2.5GHz license in order for Softbank to become even more competitive in the crowded mobile-broadband market in Japan.

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