Defining broadband

There is no official international definition of broadband. There are a number of references citing ITU-T Recommendation I.113 as broadband being faster than primary rate ISDN (i.e., at least 1.544 or 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) depending on whether the North American or European primary rate ISDN is used). There are also references to OECD statistical reports which define broadband as at least 256 kilobits per second (kbps) in at least one direction. [1]

In reference to definitions of broadband, few countries actually define a speed. The US describes “high-speed” as more than 200 kilobits per second (kbps) in at least one direction and “advanced” as speeds of at least 200 kbps in both directions for FCC statistical reporting purposes. [2] Another example would be the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority which defines broadband speeds to be "upstream or downstream data flow of a minimum of 256 Kbps.” [3] The Infocom Development Authority of Singapore does not explicitly define broadband but makes reference to “entry-level 512 kbps”. [4] The Office of the Telecommunications Authority in Hong Kong states: “At present, there is no internationally agreed definition of broadband. In general, "broadband" refers to internet access service with transmission speed from hundreds of kbps (kilobits per second) to several Mbps (Megabits per second) (1 Mb = 1000 kb).”[5]

One can build on the concept of defining broadband as to what is actually available in the market and what speeds consumers are using. In the Netherlands, only 5% of subscribers to the incumbent KPN DSL service use speeds of between 375-750 kbps down and 128 kbps up; 95% use speeds of at least 1.5 Mbps down and 256 kbps up (end 2005).[6] In Denmark, only one quarter of subscribers use DSL with down speeds of less than 512 kbps; 75% thus use speeds of at least 512 kbps downstream (end 2005).[7]

In conclusion, while 256 kbps might be taken as the minimum acceptable speed to be considered broadband, in reality, service offerings⎯at least in advanced broadband markets⎯have moved beyond that and in some cases, speeds that low are not even available for broadband services. Thus it seems realistic to use primary rate ISDN (1.5 - 2 Mbps) as the minimum speed to be considered true broadband.
[1] Singh, Rajnesh. "How BROAD is my BAND???!!" Singh-a-Blog. April 30, 2006. http://singh-a-blog.blogspot.com/2006_04_01_archive.html.
[2] Federal Communications Commission. 2006. High-Speed Services for Internet Access: Status as of December 31, 2005.
[3] Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority. 2005. The Tanzania Communications (Broadband Services) Regulations.
[4] http://www.ida.gov.sg/Publications/20061213184450.aspx
[5] Office of the Telecommunications Authority. "Definition of Broadband Service?" http://www.ofta.gov.hk/en/tips/servicetype/internet/defbroadband.html.
[6] KPN. 2006. "Quarter 4 2005 Factsheet."
[7] National IT and Telecom Agency. 2006. Tele Yearbook – 2005.

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