The Dominion Post

Why we need faster internet speeds

- Blayne Slabbert

IF YOU’VE ever screamed at your computer as it’s slowly loaded a web page, cursing that this is ‘‘slower than dial-up’’, you are not alone.

New Zealand’s internet speeds are improving but when you compare us to other countries it still feels like we have Morris Minors while some are driving Ferraris.

This is shown in the latest State of the Internet report, which shows we rank 42nd in the world with an average download speed of 7Mbps. By comparison, South Korea gets about 25Mbps. We do a wee bit better than Australia, which ranks 44th, according to the report by Akamai.

The difference between 7 and 25 may not seem huge but when you want to do more than check your emails then it can cause major frustratio­ns.

New Zealand independen­t broadband tester Truenet disputes the 7Mbps figure and says our average download speed is closer to 14Mbps. It may be correct but it still leaves us playing catchup.

Even if we use the 14Mbps figure, we may not even technicall­y have broadband. Regulators in the United States are looking at redefining broadband as speeds with a minimum of 25Mbps.

The changing way we watch television will hopefully provide motivation to increase broadband speeds.

I reckon once everyone gets a taste of online streaming, subscripti­ons will sell faster than tickets to a party with free beer and pies.

This is backed by Lightbox offering Spark customers a free service for 12 months and Neon (soon to be launched by Sky TV) doing a similar deal with Vodafone.

Add Netflix’s official arrival in March and there will be thousands of streamers in New Zealand.

To stream high definition shows you need an internet speed of at least 5Mbs so most homes should be OK. But what if there are several people in your home – I can hear the fights already.

This will push our homes’ wi-fi to the limit but not as much as 4K content will.

You will need an internet speed of at least 25Mbs to stream 4K content, which has four times the number of pixels of high definition.

At the moment only people with fibre connection­s could stream that type of show smoothly.

This all means that everyone will eventually need to replace their broadband with fibre. This will not only bump us up in the world rankings, but also ensure that we can keep up with changes in how we access content on the internet.

Blayne Slabbert is the personal technology editor for Fairfax NZ. Follow him on Twitter @bslabbert or email blayne.slabbert@ fairfaxmed­ia.co.nz

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