Study: Hong Kong tops in broadband, US in access

Hong Kong stands alone in the world as the only country where a majority of Internet users make their connections to the 'Net over cable modems or high-speed phone lines, according to a new study released by Nielsen//NetRatings on Thursday.

The study also found that the U.S. leads the world in the total number of people who have access to the Internet from their homes.

Two-thirds of all Internet users in Hong Kong access the Web over high-speed connections, far outstripping the number two country, Germany, where 45 percent of users are on broadband, the Global Internet Trends study for the second quarter of 2002 found. Sweden was third with 43 percent of users on broadband, followed by the Netherlands at 41 percent and Spain at 35 percent. The U.S. lagged behind at 17 percent.

The disparity in broadband use is determined in large part due to population densities, said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, which is based in Milpitas, California.

Hong Kong and a number of the European countries ranking high on the list have higher population densities than countries like the U.S. or Australia, making it easier and cheaper for telecommunication companies to offer broadband services, she said.

The larger countries are also affected by the limitations of some broadband technologies: DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), high-speed access over telephone lines, can only be offered within certain distances of telephone company switching equipment, and cable modems often require the rebuilding of cable systems to support the new bandwidth demands, she said.

The data was gathered through a combination of random telephone surveys in Europe and Asia and panelists who agree to let Nielsen//NetRatings track their Internet use in the United States, she said.

For the second quarter of 2002, 553 million people worldwide had Internet access in their homes, up from 531 million in the first quarter 2002, the study found.

The U.S. has 30 percent of total home Internet connections, the study found. Europe, which in the study includes Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, counted for 24 percent of those connections. The Asia/Pacific region, comprised of Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand, was third with 14 percent of total home connections and Brazil had 3 percent, the study found.

The remaining 29 percent of connections are in markets not covered by Nielsen//NetRatings. Those markets include such potentially large Internet markets as China and India, as well as large parts of the world such as Canada and most of Latin America.

Despite not covering those markets, the company is able to arrive at its figures through a combination of older research and information-sharing agreements with other research firms, Strand said.