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Australia & Jordan: A Quick Broadband Comparison

After a four-month break from the Australian broadband scene, it was interesting to return home to find that online censorship is still making the news. Returning from Jordan, a country which has just slipped to 'not free' in the recent Freedom House rankings, I was surprised to find that iiNet had survived a breach of copyright challenge from Hollywood while the South Australian Government had attempted to restrict online political debate. It seems that freedom remains a relative concept in global terms.

Although Jordan differs from Australia on all aspects social, political, cultural and economic (GDP per capita in Jordan is about 13% of that in Australia), an interesting feature is the proliferation of mobile telephones and the use of Wimax technologies to deploy broadband services throughout the Kingdom. Recently, a second submarine cable has been deployed which will improve the Kingdom's connectivity with the rest of the world. Although connectivity is almost a non-issue for wealthier Jordanians, unlike Australia, Jordan's challenges come from a lack of access to computers and a high level of computer illiteracy.

However, Jordanians can access the Net from a growing number of knowledge stations deployed throughout the Kingdom, Net connectivity is at 12% of the population and mobile connectivity stands at 86% of Jordanian families. I purchased a basic mobile phone for JOD 25 (about AUD $40) and found the service inexpensive (by Australian standards) and impeccable. Indeed, using Zain's network, I was able to make and receive calls throughout Jordan, and even while in Bahrain and Jerusalem at barely more than the cost of a within-country call.

I was able to access the Net faultlessly and at least 2.5mbps in both Amman and Aqaba, using ADSL and Wimax from a variety of providers including Orange (the now-privatised Jordan Telecommunications Group), Zain and Batelco. Interestingly, the speed of the Net in Jordan was better than it is here in Gungahlin tonight!

Although I have plenty of ideas to thresh out, a recurring theme in my ongoing cross-national study of broadband deployment indicates the importance of establishing anchor tenants such as schools, hospitals, libraries and other large-user sites when establishing broadband networks.

It would appear that Jordan has been getting on with the job while Australia is caught up in the politics of it all.

While political freedom in Jordan may not compare well with Australia, it would seem that Australia is not racing away in the broadband stakes. But then, it is all relative.