Arthur Goldstuck
Arthur Goldstuck

Facebook winner but broadband loser

If Facebook is revealing about individuals, it is no less so about countries. South Africa may have startled the world with the number of its people engaged in social networking, but now it can offer as much of a surprise about the quality of our broadband connections to the internet.

First, an update on the Facebook national network rankings. Last time we chatted about this in the virtual coffee shop called Thought Leader, South Africa was about to overtake Norway to become, once again, the sixth largest national network on Facebook. This indeed came to pass. But, sadly for those who believe this is a source of national pride, and as forecast, France has meanwhile leaped past South Africa into sixth place. It has already passed the 600 000 mark, against 468 000 in the South African network. Hong Kong, India and Singapore also pose longer term challenges, as their growth is faster than South Africa’s, and Israel has come from nowhere to become one of 15 countries in the 200 000-plus membership club.

But then we look at the broadband rankings. Thanks to ZDNet Australia, a new Facebook application allows anyone registered on the site to measure the speed of their connection at any given time. The app measures your speed for 60 seconds, and then gives you an average for your connection. The beauty of the application is that it then combines all averages for members of a national network, and provides an average for the country.

As a result, it is possible to rank countries according to the speed at which their members are connected to the internet. And, while the number of network members says nothing especially good or bad about a country, the quality of its broadband can be a source of national embarrassment. Especially when we claim world-class infrastructure.

Read ‘em and weep, South Africans: The highest-quality connection in the world measured so far is from Switzerland, where 197 tests averaged 20 Megabits per second. In second place came Germany, where 985 tests yielded an average of 19 Mbps. No less than 25 000 tests from Sweden earned it a third place with 16Mbps, followed By Finland (14Mbps), Czech Republic (14Mbps), Japan (12Mbps), Hong Kong (12Mbps), Republic of Korea (11Mbps), Norway (10Mbps) and The Netherlands (10Mbps).

The United States, original home of the internet, can only manage 14th place, although still at a decent 8Mbps. But it’s still a little like England, home of football, not qualifying for the European Championship. The latter do a little better at broadband, with the United Kingdom coming 17th with a 7Mbps average.

And South Africa? This hurts, so forgive me for delaying the pain. Let it be noted that we are behind the likes of Morocco, Armenia and Vietnam, to name a few other developing countries. Let it be noted that we barely edge out Pakistan and Indonesia. And let it be noted that those who have been tested, tend to be the better connected South Africans.

Our ranking: 91st in the world.

So far 323 tests have been run by South Africans, delivering an average of 706 kbps. The single fastest connection measured from South Africa was 4,9Mbs, and the slowest 12kbps.

Now can we have that other undersea cable?