The fastest are getting faster.
Eight of the top 10 countries or regions in terms of Internet speed saw a boost in the final quarter of 2009, according to Akamai's "State of the Internet Report" released Tuesday.
Among those top areas, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan grabbed the best Internet performance globally, averaging connection speeds higher than 7.5 megabits per second (Mbps) in the fourth quarter. Although South Korea actually was hit by a 29 percent decline in performance year over year, it still snagged the No. 1 spot at 11.7 Mbps.
The United States ended up at No. 22 on the list of 234 countries tracked, with an average connection speed of 3.8 Mbps, a 2.5 percent drop from the previous year.
Ninety-six countries saw connection speeds lower than 1 Mbps at the end of 2009, down slightly from the 103 countries below 1 Mbps in the third quarter. Only three countries or regions--Mayotte, Wallis and Futuna, and Guyana--had speeds lower than 100 kilobits per second (Kbps)--less than half as many as in the third quarter.
The overall average connection speed globally was 1.7 Mbps, a slight drop of 1 percent from the prior quarter.
In the U.S., changes in Internet performance compared with the third quarter were mixed for the top 10 states as five of them saw an increase in average connection speeds and five saw a decrease. Among all states, 31 saw an increase in speed, while 19 were hit with a decrease from the prior quarter.
More devices continued to hop onto the Net. Akamai found that the number of unique IP addresses connecting to its own network rose 4.7 percent over the third quarter, ending the year with 465 million individual IPs from 234 different countries. That marked a 16 percent jump in unique addresses from the end of 2008 and a 54 percent rise from the end of 2007. Among all countries, the U.S. and China accounted for almost 40 percent of those addresses.
With more mobile devices hitting cyberspace, Akamai found a variety of connection speeds offered by various mobile carriers across the globe, ranging from 3.2 Mbps from a provider in Austria to 106 Kbps from one in Slovakia. Of the 109 carriers included in the report, more than 40 delivered average speeds greater than 1 Mbps in the fourth quarter, while 11 provided speeds higher than 2 Mbps.
And finally, cyberattacks continued to plague the Internet in the fourth quarter, with Akamai seeing attacks launched from 198 countries. Russia took the top spot as the greatest source for attack traffic, while the U.S. and China came in second and third place, respectively.