Defining broadband

Posted on August 21, 2009  /  2 Comments

In our work, we refer to both the OECD and ITU definitions of broadband. They are quite different, indicating this is not settled science.

Now the FCC has entered the fray, asking for comments on interpreting broadband.

This is what one online commentator says:

Nicely put, but defining and, even more, “interpreting” broadband may be a tough call. The FCC’s Notice certainly doesn’t make it easy. When last we checked, the FCC upgraded its speed based definition of “basic” broadband to over 200Kbps but less than 768Kbps (uploads and downloads). “I am pleased that the Commission finally moved away from its antiquated definition of broadband as 200 kilobits per second, which had become something of a running joke,” declared one Commissioner after the June 2008 Order. The Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which is taking applications for broadband stimulus money, defines broadband as “two-way data transmission with advertised speeds of at least 768 kbps downstream and at least 200 kbps upstream to end users.”

But now the Commission notes that just because some ISP advertises service at thus and such a speed doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s what the consumer will get. In July, for example, the United Kingdom Ofcom released the conclusions of a six-month investigation about broadband rates. Customers who bought DSL from one of eight different companies may have thought they were getting 8Mbps, Ofcom reported, but on average they were only getting 4.8.


  1. Who has defined good food on the table or civilized speed limit in the highway? Among other applications, the farmers in Bangladesh use shallow-tube-well to convert their country boats into faster mechanized vessels. Muhammad Yunus packages mobile phone in micro-credit scheme the way he does dairy, poultry or fisheries to alleviate poverty. The doers don’t care about definitions.

  2. High speed Internet is commonly known as Broadband. The minimum speed above which a connection will be termed as broadband varies from country to country. There is no uniform standard for the minimum speed. While some of the countries prefer not to define broadband at all, most of the countries define broadband speed around 256 Kbps/ sec.

    The minimum speed for broadband connection from its present level of 256 Kbps with the international Standards. There are large number of countries are having minimum broadband connection speed more than or equal to 2 Mbps.
    In India, A typical startup broadband plan with 256 Kbps in country is available at monthly charge of Rs. 250/- as against monthly charge of Rs. 3300/- for a connection with min. 2 Mbps connection speed.

    Definitions of Broadband by International Organizations and Major Countries

    International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
    Broadband may be defined as sufficient bandwidth to permit combined provision of voice, data and video. Speed should be greater than 256 kbps, as the sum of capacity in both directions.

    United Nation Core ICT indicator:
    A Broadband Internet subscriber is someone who pays for high-speed access to the public Internet (a TCP/IP connection). High-speed access is defined as being equal to, or greater than 256 k bits/s, as the sum of the capacity in both directions.

    ARCEP (France):
    As defined by ARCEP the Telecom regulator in France, high speed or broadband refer to Internet access capacities which exceed those of analogue access via modem or that of ISDN digital access, at least equal to 512 Kbps as is the case currently on ADSL.

    ICASA (South Africa):
    “Broadband means an always-on data connection that is able to support various interactive services, and has the ability of a minimum download speed of 256 Kilo bits per second”.

    FCC (United State of America):
    FCC defined “broadband” as the capability of supporting, in both the provider-to-consumer (downstream) and the consumer-to-provider (upstream) directions, a speed (in technical terms, “bandwidth”) in excess of 200 Kbps in the last mile.

    Broadband is “a very high speed ‘always-on’ service connection allowing large amounts of information to be conveyed quickly, such as data, graphics files or video generally defined as a bandwidth more than 512 Kbits/s.”

    Canada :
    Taking a more functional approach to definition, the Canadian National Broadband Task Force (CNBTF) decided not to define broadband in terms of information transmission rates, but instead defined it as “a high capacity, two-way link between end users and access network suppliers capable of supporting full-motion interactive video applications to all Canadians on terms comparable to those available in urban markets.” A minimum symmetrical speed of 1.5 megabits per second per individual user.

    According to 2005 Hungarian broadband infrastructure subsidy programs, broadband transmission shall meet the following criteria: Minimum speed from the service provider to residential subscribers: 256 kbps (512 kbps also being possible).

    Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
    The OECD defines broadband as an Internet connection that is capable of sustaining download speeds to individual users greater than or equal to 256 k bits/s. The Broadband speed definitions by country in OECD are shown in Diagram below. It is observed that broadband speed defined by most of the countries is less than or equal to 256 Kbps.