I know this sounds hard to believe, but it´s true. I was in Silicon Valley last week, at the offices of our partners Google and Sequoia Capital and this is a fact: the most successful internet company in the world, Google, and the most successful VC in the world, Sequoia Capital, have their executives surfing the internet slower speeds than the average European or Asian at home.

The only reasonable internet speeds I have found in America are those provided by cable TV companies. DSL there is on the average much slower than in Europe or Asia. One reason may be lack of competition, the other one may be that the average distance of a home from a central office is greater as people in America live further away from each other.

Internet at FON´s offices in Union Square, San Francisco, also is super slow compared to our Madrid´s office. This phenomenom may also explain why American web sites are so “light” looking compared to European web sites. See for example Youtube vs European rivals Sevenload, Vpod or Daily Motion. The Youtube, and others including Yahoo, Google, eBay, are sites designed for bandwidth poor environments. European sites don´t need to and this when telco offers are as good as the one of Neuf in France where you get up to 20 megs for 15 euros.

As a result what you see is European and Asian content companies specializing in bandwidth intensive apps and American companies specializing in massive, fast apps and end up building more valuable companies.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Dan on January 15, 2007  · 

Okay. That’s newsworthy but not entirely relevant. Heres’s why: during my recent visit in Germany I spent some time with a couple of students and got the gist of their online lifestyle. These guys don’t surf! They only do YouYube. That’s what their 16Mbit DLS is for.
Me, I’m most of the times connected over a 2.4Mbit EvDo wireless modem. Normally that translates into roughly 50-100KB/s download speeds. Funny thing is that the is pretty much the same to the DSL depicted above. I need connection and low lag for most of my activity online, not insane download speeds.

And there’s two other side-notes:
– about 2 years ago I’d be online 90% of the time over a slow GPRS connection with file size download cap of one meg/file. And that was fine! I then learned that the word that matters is not ‘download’, but ‘connection’.
– the USA is the internet. Speeds in the US should be blitz-like because they are like a giant local network. I don’t have numbers but most of the web is hosted on servers in the US. They could almost go up to 100Mbit/s there, that’s how convenient it is to be close to where it’s all happening. Alas, the competition is not as steep so they can go sell 4Mbit links like that was the best speed in the world. People don’t have comparison there.
I bet you, they might not have 16Mbit DSL at penny prices, but they sure have darn nippie response time!

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Jeff Clavier on January 15, 2007  · 

One of the points I made at LeWeb3 is that Europe will have an opportunity of building super rich, hyper interactive applications first – just because of that difference of bandwidth available in Europe vs the US. I live in downtown Palo Alto, and I get a meager 1.5Mb down DSL connection when I am lucky. Cable can deliver up to 6Mb but in practice it does not. And we still pay $40 to $45 a month past the initial promotion period because there is no real competition in the marketplace. Europe will see FTTH deployed way before we can start dreaming about it here.

Another thing Martin: Sand Hill Road is one of the worst sport for cell phone reception. It is the absolute nightmare for any entrepreneur wanting to demo a wireless app to find himself/herself with no signal at all. You get caught only once on that one :-).

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StuFF mc on January 16, 2007  · 

I can confirm 🙂 I was in the Silicon Valley and then in San Francisco (just returned) for 10 days and I was crying for bandwith… I had to upload my podcasts at 40 KB/sec, instead of 120 here in Germany 🙁 Hopefully, I’m back with a “normal” internet connection : ADSL 2+ rocks ! 🙂 Damned, Martin, if I only knew you were somewhere where I was, you could have meet, and do a little interview for Pomcast !

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Bernard on January 16, 2007  · 


Maybe this is true. Refering to the incident that EarthQuake damaged the optical fibre between East and West . We saw the Internet Butterfly Effect.

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Martin Varsavsky on January 16, 2007  · 

Well Jeff,

At least now there´s FON at Sequoia Capital!

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Vincent on January 17, 2007  · 

Well Martin, you may be glad with a little bit of bandwidth stimulating fast apps. But is it a coincidence that the Japanese are leading in the development of ultra-hdtv and at the same time Japan has more ftth-connections than the rest of the world combined?

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killy-the-frog on January 17, 2007  · 

following your thinking way, China website should be very light and they should build more valuable companies…

the reality is very heavy webpage full of “ugly” stuff, and very few valuable internet company.

Often the cause consequence are more complex than it look like.

By the way in Paris more and more people get around 50mb for around 20 euros, and the average speed offered tend more to be 24mb than 16mb


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Martin Varsavsky on January 17, 2007  · 


Japan has managed to create an amazing environment for the internet with fiber, VDSL, great mobile services, that environment should lead to great creativity and new developments in bandwidth rich apps

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Stuart on January 19, 2008  · 

Your speeds are pretty good for low prices. 😉

Your youtube and online streaming must be perfect, not to mention download speeds through the roof, and finally, browsing must be a non issue.

But it all leads down to investment, if there is not enough competition there is not going to be the desired investment? not enough for good progress at least. My country is just perfect proof of that.

I am sitting at home now writing this on a line that is probably the same price as your guys, but with the speed of a 1/3 of a mb 🙁 if you are wondering what cave i am living in, that would be South Africa. We have only one telecommunications company here and they just leech the life of our country. not to mention that our best line available is 4mb

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