Surfing the Internet daily
91 percent of Belarusian Internet users log in regularly, with an even greater figure of 98 percent for young people
To draw the first 50 million users, it took 38 years for radio, 13 for TV and just four years for the Internet. At present, around a third of the global population use the Net but, by 2020, it is expected that everyone on the planet will be able to enjoy access, according to the most optimistic forecasts; pessimists predict 70 percent coverage. Belarus is not behind in this global ‘Internetisation’; our users are among the most active in the CIS. These are the results of the international Connected Consumer Survey — commissioned by Google Inc.; according to the survey, Belarus has joined the list for the first time: as the figures show, 91 percent of Belarusian Internet users log on daily.
The figure is even higher among youth and teenagers: 98 percent in the ‘under 25’ and ’25-34’ age groups. The results for the over-55s indicate that 78 percent of such Internet users log on every day. The Google study also traditionally includes Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia (though the data on the latter is not yet up to date so the 2015 results have been used). According to the survey, 86 percent of Internet users log on daily in Kazakhstan, 85 percent in Ukraine and 81 percent in Russia. Belarusians also lead regarding activity in certain age categories: 94 percent of Kazakhs, 93 percent of Ukrainians and 85 percent of Russians aged 25-34 connect regularly.
We are only slightly behind similar activity with smartphones: globally, they are often used to access the Internet. Optimistic forecasts on complete world coverage are connected with the proliferation of smartphones, which will supersede expensive computers when browsing or for communication on social networks. According to the study, 59 percent of Belarusians use smartphones and, in Ukraine, this figure is the lowest at only 35 percent. In Kazakhstan and Russia, the figures show 65 percent and 61 percent respectively. Once again, those under 35 years are in the lead with 89 percent using smartphones (in Kazakhstan, for example, the figure is 85 percent). On average, a single Belarusian accounts for 1.8 devices connected to the Internet — including smartphones, tablets, computers and laptops. In Ukraine, there are 1.2 devices per capita, in Kazakhstan — 2.1 and in Russia — 2.8. Belarusians are more actively using gadgets: 58 percent of smartphone owners surf the Internet daily for information, over half of all users communicate on social networks and 43 percent watch online videos. At least ten percent use 4 or more devices to access the network.
Stability and speed of connection are of particular importance; these are vital for watching videos in high definition. According to experts, this segment will account for 82 percent of mobile data traffic. In early 2015, Belarus rose to 2nd place in the world in terms of the growth rate for access to the Internet: with the figures increasing by 34 percent. Moreover, this year, the Republic has joined the United States and Canada — becoming among the three top states where it is possible to connect to superfast internet at 1 Gbit/s. Of course, this achievement is useless for ordinary users as the Internet has no servers available to individuals which are producing information at such a high speed: the move is aimed at companies that need a stable and broad Internet channel.
Our country also occupies a high position in the final report of the Broadband Commission, established under the auspices of UNESCO. In Belarus, the number of broadband subscribers is 31.35 per 100 citizens. According to this indicator, we are in 23rd place in the world, close to the USA and Greece and seriously outperforming Russia (55th), Kazakhstan (72nd) and Ukraine (77th). Lithuania, Latvia and Poland are also lower down. In a single year, Belarus has raised by two places in the rankings: the sustained progress has become possible thanks to the introduction of xPon and Ethernet broadband technology in the country. Modern domestic users would not be surprised with tariff plans of 100 Mbit/s or even 200 Mbit/s speed; this is enough for any virtual activity including online games or video with ultra-high 4K resolution. According to the state programme for the development of the digital economy, by 2020, the number of subscribers of fixed broadband Internet access will increase to 34.7 per 100 inhabitants; accordingly, 90 percent of Belarusians will enjoy wireless access.
As regards the number of mobile broadband subscribers (3G and 4G), our country is in 59th place — with 61.83 users per 100 inhabitants. The rapid spread of fourth-generation networks looks attractive: the 4G Internet with a potential speed of 100 Mbit/s was launched in Belarus last year and, at present, it is offered to subscribers by two of the three mobile operators. As a result, according to British Open Signal’s data, Belarus is ahead of Russia and Ukraine in terms of 3G and 4G network penetration. Interestingly, Ukraine is last but one and Kazakhstan is not included in the ratings at all. As regards the speed of the mobile Internet, Belarus is 50th in the world and, in terms of Wi-Fi use — 56th. In 44.53 percent of cases, our smartphones and tablets are connected to a wireless Internet access point, rather than a mobile operator’s network. Home access points are included in the rating but, in the future, the statistics could increase on account of the installation of Wi-Fi on public transport. The Ministry of Communications and Informatisation recently permitted the installation of wireless access points in buses and minibuses without pre-registration. Belarusians will soon enjoy another opportunity to stay online.
By Anton Kostyukevich