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Is the U.K. Information Superhighway Lagging Behind the Rest of the World?

5G is the future—but the United Kingdom still has a long way to go to become a truly smart country.
By Marcus Turner Jones
Jul 29, 2017

Back in 1993, Internet speed was limited to a mere 56 Kps. It took ages to download a single webpage, so streaming music and video was not an option. The situation is very different these days, and in some parts of the world, consumers and businesses can take advantage of Internet speeds of which other countries can only dream. The technology is evolving at a phenomenal speed, but in a few countries, most notably the United Kingdom, telecommunication infrastructure is lagging behind. This could be hampering the rate at which the Internet of Things improves in the country as well.

3G and 4G Connectivity
The majority of countries worldwide have 3G connectivity more than 50 percent of the time. 3G and 4G are now the norm, but download speeds vary considerably, ranging from 41.3 Mbs in South Korea to 2.2 Mbs in Afghanistan. Singapore, Hungary and Australia all enjoy lightning-fast 3G connectivity, but the overall speed in the United Kingdom is only 13.7 Mbs, though this is still better than in the United States, where 3G speeds are only 12.34 Mbs.

Of course, speed isn't the only issue under consideration. It's pointless offering fast 3G speeds if only a fraction of the country has access to the 3G network. South Korea enjoys the fastest 3G network in the world, with 98.5 percent coverage.

The problem with low speeds and poor connectivity is that "things" cannot be reliably connected to the Internet. The United Kingdom needs to up its speeds and coverage if energy and fleet-management companies, for example, are to invest further in the technology.

Wi-Fi Connectivity
In many countries, Wi-Fi provides Internet access just as often as cellular data networks. In the Netherlands, for example, 70.05 percent of users use a Wi-Fi connection to go online. In the United Kingdom, 60.13 percent of the population use Wi-Fi, but at the other end of the scale, those living in Ethiopia only use Wi-Fi 15.5 percent of the time.

The upshot of this data is that it isn't difficult to find a decent 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi connection, but the majority of countries cannot offer reliability and speed. Only South Korea ticks all boxes, which gives it an impressive advantage over countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

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