Faster connections for the have's and less internet for the have not's

Global internet use may be slowing, but video viewership and messaging are exploding as many of us are connecting faster –these were the key takeaways from two influential reports just released on online and connectivity trends.

The growth in internet users globally has flattened out, but the video and messaging markets are on an upward curve. These were two key insights from the annual Internet Trends report, led by Mary Meeker, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

Whilst the “easy growth is behind us”, according to Meeker, with the number of worldwide internet users sticking around the 3 billion mark, we are all looking for more from the internet in terms of interaction.  It is therefore no surprise that Generation Z users (born between 1996 and 2010) use on average five screens and spend 80% of their time on just three apps: Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The downtrend in new internet users is being attributed to falling global gross domestic product (GDP) in emerging countries and an aging global population. In addition, developing countries have been much slower to get online, primarily due to the high cost of smartphones relative to people’s incomes.

Some regions, however, have seen a surge in internet use.  India for example, is seeing a huge spurt in internet usage of up to 40%, compared with 33% last year.  India has now passed the US to take number two spot in the global market behind China.


We’re connecting faster
With our increasing appetite for video, it is a great to hear that many of us are connecting faster.  According to Content Delivery Network specialist (CDN) Akami’s quarterly ‘State of the Internet’ report for the first quarter of this year, global average connection speed increased 12 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, to 6.3 Mbps.  This equates to a 23% increase year-over- year.

South Korea, at 29 Mbps now has the fastest internet connection speed in the world, followed up by Norway, Sweden, Hong Kong and Switzerland with average speeds of 21.3, 20.6, 19.9 and 18.7 Mbps respectively. The global average connection speed increased 12 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2015 to 6.3 Mbps, a 23 per cent increase year-over-year.

Average connection speeds for European countries surveyed were very positive, except for Ireland. The remaining countries all boasted double-digit yearly gains, with Norway once again achieving the biggest increase at 68%.

Mobile internet connections are also speeding up: The UK offers the fastest mobile connection in Europe with average speeds of 27.9 Mbps, according to Akami’s report, trouncing the majority of countries in Europe by more than 10 Mbps, and the US average speed by over 20 Mbps.


Users move mobile centre stage
More and more users are shifting their online time to mobile, according to Meeker, which makes speed of the essence.

Meeker believes that mobile messaging apps have the power to overtake the home screen on mobile devices. This is based on the fact that the average user accesses just 12 apps per day, with the most commonly accessed apps globally being Facebook, WhatsApp and Chrome. Meeker predicts that messaging will move from being social interactions to increasingly business related interactions.


We like voice and video

From Apple’s Siri to Amazon’s Alexa, the rise in virtual assistants is only going to grow, according to Meeker, because it is fast, easy, hands-free, personalized and inexpensive.  Around 20 per cent of searches with Google on Android, for example, are now made via voice input.  

Meeker goes as far as predicting that once speech recognition reaches 99% accuracy, people will go from hardly using it to it being second nature.

At the same time, video has captured consumer’s imaginations as we look to images to tell our stories. Facebook, for example, now gets four billion video views per day. Additionally, Meeker points out that vertical viewing mobile devices is currently 29 per cent of time spent looking at screens, up from 5 per cent five years ago.


What does all this mean for consumers?
The world is about to get a whole lot more personalized.  With more choice and more control, the connected will get more from their internet experience than ever before.  So much so that the future could just belong to voice controlled Web and mobile video.

Discover how Orange Business and Akamai can improve your content delivery and web site performance to capitalise on the growth in high-speed connections.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.