When Bloomberg highlighted that Kenya’s internet was ranked faster than Australia’s in the latest Akamai’s State of Internet report, the Australian Prime Minister did not take it lightly. To understand the backstory, Australia invested $38 Billion in a National Broadband Network (NBN) infrastructure that was meant to “spearhead a digital revolution.” The situation on the ground is that the project has been mismanaged by the government leading to costs overrun and construction delays.
While speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull dismissed the comparison of the country’s internet to that of Kenya as “complete rubbish.” He said, “One-and-a-half percent of people in Kenya have access to broadband. In Australia, it’s 90%. You might have a handful of wealthy people with apartment buildings that have got first world telecoms in a country where the vast majority of people have got no access at all.” Mr Turnbull alludes that Kenya has far fewer people connected to the internet and those connected can afford fast connections, thus this worked in favour of Kenya getting a higher average than Australia.
These remarks were followed by a statement from Peter Ryan, Australia NBN Chief Network Engineering Officer, as seen below:
Does Kenya – a country with a GDP per capita of US$1,455 per year – compared to Australia’s US$49,900 – really have faster broadband than Australia?
The answer, to put it bluntly, is no – unless you happen to live in one of the 180,000 lucky, perhaps wealthier residencies receiving Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) or Hybrid-Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) services. For the other near 9 million Kenyan homes there is no fixed-line broadband.
Kenya has a total fixed-broadband penetration rate of just 1.75 per cent – so, to be quite clear, that means 98 per cent of Kenya’s households – that’s around 8.8 million premises – don’t even have a fixed-broadband connection. Australia has a total fixed-broadband penetration rate of around 90 per cent.
However, the Akamai figures don’t reflect this. What they reflect is the tiny number of fixed-broadband circuits coming out of Kenya with average speeds of 12.2Mbps – and that’s the number that gets reported, the 98 per cent of premises that don’t have a fixed-broadband connection simply don’t count.
So are these statements true?
First, Akamai’s statistics looked at the average speeds of broadband internet connections as stated in the report, “This quarter’s report includes data gathered from across the Akamai Intelligent Platform during the first quarter of 2017, covering Internet connection speeds and broadband adoption metrics across both fixed and mobile networks, as well as trends seen in this data over time.” The report also includes the following sentence, “… mobile network data has been removed from the data set used to calculate the metrics in the present section, as well as in subsequent regional “Geography” sections.” As you can see, there’s no explicit mention of “fixed broadband” as Peter Ryan stated in his statement.
Secondly, Australia is ranked second worldwide as having the highest internet penetration with 89.8% of the population connected to the internet, which translates to 19,554,832 internet users. In Kenya, internet penetration stands at 64.8% which translates to 29,624,474 internet users.
Third, Kenya has 15.4 million broadband internet connections compared to Australia’s 13.7 million broadband connections.
So yes, Australia might have a higher internet penetration rate than Kenya and a higher GDP, but Kenya has way more internet users than just “a handful.” Peter Ryan and Malcolm Turnbull’s statements are false and spiteful and can be perfectly described as “complete rubbish.”
So dear Australia, take your L in peace and walk. Let Kenyans enjoy their 12.2Mbps internet that’s better than yours.