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Much of China still has rubbish net connections, stats show

Fleabitten British lion still faster than snoozing dragon

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China may have the full weight of the government behind its push towards improving fixed line broadband penetration in the country, but it’s still lagging far behind the UK, according to the latest stats from local content delivery firm ChinaCache.

The report, handily translated by TechInAsia, show the average connection speeds for each of the country’s provinces, including Shanghai and Beijing, over the first half of 2012.

What it shows, as many businesses and home workers in the region will already attest to, is that despite China’s ambitious plans to build out fibre optic networks, connection speeds can be frustratingly low.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Shanghai and Beijing come top with average connection speeds of around 4Mbps and 3.6Mbps respectively. After this there’s a pretty disappointing drop-off, the Anhui province coming next with an average speed of less than 3Mbps.

The bottom three regions - Shanxi, Guangxi and Xinjiang – which between them have a population of over 100 million people, all fail to top 1.5Mbps, showing the huge digital divide which still exists in the country between the major cities and far-flung provinces.

Content delivery firm Akamai’s most recent State of the Internet report for Q4 2011 claimed just 20 per cent of China has speeds of over 2Mbps, placing it 78th globally.

By comparison, it said the UK has 91 per cent of households above this basic minimum and ranked 12th. Acton was the fastest location with an average peak connection speed of 27.8Mbps.

What can make matters worse for internet users in China is the additional delays, time-outs and general disruption caused by the Great Firewall, or any censorship-bypassing VPN technology they’ve been forced to install to visit specific banned sites.

To be fair, the Chinese government has acknowledged the vital importance to the economy of a strong internet infrastructure, and has pledged 80 per cent of a $303 billion infrastructure investment to broadband development.

It said that by 2015, fixed broadband connections will exceed 370 million, adding the following in a recent human rights action plan:

The internet connection speed for urban households will reach 20Mbps, and that for rural households, 4Mbps. Fibre optic internet connection will cover 200 million households. In addition, China will build wireless broadband cities, and gradually spread internet connections and usage throughout the rural areas.

Historically the country’s vast and unforgiving geography has kept broadband prices high and limited the expansion of internet infrastructure, but this will change – it just depends on how quickly.

In the meantime, the best option for many firms, especially those with a strong B2C presence in the People’s Republic, will be to invest in a content delivery service. ®

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