Increased use of mobile phones to access the Internet has created a need to adapt the way in which broadband connectivity is measured. Since 2000, the OECD has collected and reported broadband data to capture and record significant changes in the markets for Internet access. While some wireless broadband technologies (such as fixed wireless and satellite) were included from the outset, they have accounted for only a small percentage of total connections. In fact, even as of December 2008, less than 2 per cent of all reported broadband subscriptions were wireless. Due to speed limitations and difficulties determining actual use, however, Internet-enabled mobile phones were not included in the OECD broadband statistics.
In recent years, however, telecom operators have invested large amounts in the upgrading of mobile networks (such as HSDPA, CDMA2000 upgrades and WiMAX) to allow for higher speed connectivity. This has made it important to develop a methodology to better measure wireless broadband connectivity. Following contributions from member countries, in February 2009 the OECD presented a proposal for a new indicator made up of four major components: satellite, WiMAX, other/evolving and mobile broadband connections. All components include connections with advertised data speeds at 256 kbit/s or higher.
The mobile category posed particular difficulties. Many mobile phones are “broadband capable” but never actually used to access the Internet. The challenge is therefore to find a way to integrate the mobile segment with other wireless technologies to create a meaningful and useful statistic. Following discussions at an expert meeting on 19–20 February 2009 in Lisbon, it was proposed that only subscriptions with actual Internet data usage during the previous three months should be included in the mobile broadband component. The mobile component also includes a subset counting the number of dedicated or “stand alone” data subscriptions. In the other categories, there is no actual use requirement for dedicated data subscriptions.
Local network services provided over Internet Protocol (IP) would not qualify as Internet usage under the proposed definition, nor would standard SMS (short message service) and MMS (multimedia messaging service) messaging. On the other hand, e-mail and instant messaging would qualify as Internet data access in terms of this data collection. If the mobile subscriber pays a monthly subscription fee for data access, the mobile device should also be considered “active”.
The “other/evolving” category includes older fixed-wireless technologies such as LMDS (local multipoint distribution service) and MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution service) as well as new, evolving wireless broadband technologies. Wi-Fi is not included in the definition, except when used as the transport technology for a fixed-wireless Internet service provider....