Boasting a metropolitan area population of more than 22 million people, Seoul is the second most populated metro area in the world and second to none in terms of modern technology. Seoul is home to some of the biggest telecommunications and technology companies in the world, including SK Telecom, KT Corporation, Samsung and LG. If you're looking for the latest and greatest cell phone or miniature wifi gadget, Seoul should be your first stop.
When it comes to broadband penetration, South Korea is the world leader with an 83 percent penetration rate. This is in part due to the full blown broadband revolution that has been taking place in Seoul for the past 8 years.
Seoul is full of Internet cafés, wireless hotspots and gaming areas (called "pc baangs") making it the ideal city to use the Internet on the go. In most areas, a pc baang can be found on every corner. How's that for service?
Koreans have a fascination with PC gaming unlike any other country in the world. In South Korea, there are multiple television channels dedicated solely to broadcasting the day's video game events. Talented video game players are treated like celebrities similar to famous basketball players in the United States. At the center of all of the gaming is Seoul, which has played an important part in expanding Internet usage throughout all of South Korea.
Internet access in Seoul is extremely cheap, averaging around $20 per month for a 10Mpbs connection -- that's more than 4 times as fast and half the price of the average broadband connection in the United States. Some areas of Seoul boast commercial Internet speeds of more than 100Mbps for merely $30 per month. With speeds that fast it would only take you 5 minutes to download a two-hour high definition movie.
Seoul's current expansion plans include a $439 million project to add wireless Internet access to the subway trains. "The plan would be to create a wifi network, and then charge roughly $20 per month for access."
With such a huge broadband presence and a dedication to offering cheap, fast Internet solutions, Seoul is the definition of wired.
In 2004 Ying-jeou Ma, the mayor of Taipei set out to make his city the world's foremost wireless "cyber city." In less than three years he did just that by blanketing the city in one of the world's largest WiFi grids.
For a mere $70 million, Q-Ware Corp. was able to build a wireless network consisting of more than 20,000 access points with enough range to provide service for 90 percent of Taipei's population. That number is remarkable considering Taipei has more than 2.6 million residents in a 105 square mile area. Access to the city wide WiFi network is available for a low monthly fee ranging from $4.50 to $12.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of having city wide WiFi comes in the form of a near-ubiquitous Internet access. Users no longer have to find Internet cafés or wait until they get home to receive stock updates or check email on their laptops. Instead, anyone can simply activate a WiFi enabled device and enjoy -- pending they have purchased the service from Q-Ware Corp. of course.
To go along with the WiFi project, Ying-jeou Ma has implemented several types of free web services for the city's inhabitants including lifetime email accounts, ability to pay for city service bills online and a "three-hour online training course for Taipei citizens to acquire and sharpen their Internet skills."
Although in size and overall Internet capabilities Taipei is no Seoul, in terms of wireless penetration Taipei comes in at number one.
As the largest metropolitan area in the world, Tokyo is no stranger to connecting tens of millions of people. For a business to be run profitably in Tokyo, it truly must be wired. From the office to the home, Tokyo boasts an amazing appetite for technology and an infrastructure that supports rapid expansion.
Internet in Japan is fairly cheap considering the speed trade off. Japan's most popular Internet option comes in the form of 100Mbps VDSL from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) for $50 per month. For the truly ambitious Internet user, a 1Gbps fiber to the home (FTTH) option is available from Kansai Electric Power for $90 per month.
Because of the great speeds and availability Tokyo broadband users are able to obtain, web conferencing and VoIP calls have become the norm. In fact, the VoIP market in Japan totals more than 10 million unique IP lines.
Between 2005 and 2010 NTT plans on spending more than $40 billion making it the single most expensive telecommunications project in the history of the country. The renovations include plans for providing ubiquitous broadband for the entire country's 45 million households.
When it comes to raw broadband speed for the most number of users, Tokyo leads the world.
Unsurprisingly, another one of the four East Asian Tigers -- Asian countries experiencing rapid industrialization since 1960 -- has made this list due to its commitment to economic and technological growth.
As the case with most of the other Asian IT markets, broadband in Hong Kong is very cheap considering the amount of bandwidth provided. Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN), the leading IT company in the area, provides a 10Mbps residential connection for merely $16 per month. A 100Mbps connection costs $34 per month, making Hong Kong one of the few cities in the world with the ability to provide such high speeds to residential areas at an affordable cost.
HKBN also offers a broadband TV service equipped with more than 70 channels (displayed in DVD quality) on topics from the news to education to adult movies. Hong Kong is also in the process of pushing VoIP telephony technology as opposed to the old fashion telephone. HKBN offers a second generation broadband phone capable of video conferencing, instant messaging and all of the standard expected features for $6 a month.
If you're looking for the total digital experience, Hong Kong is your destination of choice.
After separating from Malaysia in 1965, the city-state Singapore set off on an industrial revolution modernizing the entire country. Along the way, Singapore gained a keen eye for IT and has since built one of the most impressive broadband infrastructures in the world with a 65 percent penetration rate.
Compared to the other Asian epicenters, Singapore's Internet is relatively expensive as a 30Mbps connection costs around $77 per month. However, for the same Internet service in the United States, you would expect to pay at least $180 per month. Fortunately, if you're willing to have a few restrictions placed on your surfing, you can receive free 4Mpbs broadband from Singapore ISP StarHub.
When it comes to IT expansion, Singapore might be the most active country in the world. Last year, the Singapore government launched a 10 year plan to modernize the country's IT approach.
"The capacity to innovate and create new business models, solutions and services will enable Singapore to be more competitive in a globalized environment." -- Singapore Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang.
The plan calls for 80,000 new jobs, improving broadband penetration to 90 percent, improving IT assets and revenue and increasing broadband infrastructure capabilities to support IPv6 and speeds up to 1Gbps.
Internet in the Nordic countries is very similar to that of the Asian countries: very widespread and very fast (however not quite as cheap). In terms of broadband penetration by population, Nordic countries make up five of the top eight on OECD's official list. The pinnacle of the Nordic Internet market can be found in Stockholm, Sweden.
TeliaSonera, the leading telecommunications company in Sweden, offers a 24Mpbs broadband Internet service for $50 per month pending the user signs an 18 month contract and uses a TeliaSonera phone which costs around $20 per month. Considering how expensive everything else in Sweden is, $70 per month for fast and reliable broadband is a steal.
In addition to widespread home access, cybercafés play an important role in the recreational lives of Swedes and increase accessibility. Some of the biggest PC gaming cybercafés in the world can be found in Stockholm.
While most cities are developing plans to increase the number of WiFi hotspots they have, Stockholm is busy engaging in a different type of wireless Internet technology:WiMAX. WiMAX is similar to WiFi in that it provides wireless Internet within a limited range. However, when it comes to the radius of the range and available bandwidth produced by the signal, WiMAX is far superior to WiFi (we're talking 20 feet versus 2 miles). Stockholm is currently testing ways to blanket the city in a WiMAX grid.
With the invention of wireless mesh networks, WiFi access around the globe is beginning to increase at an exponential rate. Wireless mesh networks work by transmitting signals from strategically placed receivers (or nodes) within a network rather than one central location. In turn, the wireless signal is able to travel very large distances offering service to a record number of users.
Currently, several cities in the United States are taking on municipal WiFi projects to offer city wide Internet access at a very affordable (and occasionally free) price. Most of the cities' solutions involve some form of a wireless mesh network. Here are some of the cities experimenting with this technology.
St. Cloud, Fla.
St. Cloud's network spans 24 square miles and is available to all users in the city free of cost. After 6 months, 77 percent of the cities inhabitants had registered for the service.
Mountain View, Calif.
As part of their effort to "reach out to [their] hometown" Google is currently offering free wireless Internet to the city of Mountain View.
As one of the pioneering municipal WiFi cities in America, Tempe boasts an impressive 40 square mile WiFi network. Despite its grand implementation, access to the WiFi network requires a subscription and as such has seen slow integration with the cities residents. Currently only 15 percent of Tempe's residents own a municipal WiFi subscription.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi employs a unique 147 square mile WiFi network designed primarily for use by public works and public safety departments. The city is now saving a great deal of money in utility costs by reading meters digitally, police officers are able to do their jobs better by having instant access to various criminal mug shot databases and of course city employees are better able to telecommute to work from all across the city.
Several major U.S. cities including San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston currently have WiFi plans in the works to provide Internet access to millions of residents and visitors.
To view a complete list of municipal wifi projects in the United States, click here.
Although Paris is usually associated with fashion and leisure, a recent surge of technological advancement has placed Paris on the map of connected cities. After all, it was only a matter of time before Paris began to convert all of its infamous cafés to WiFi hotspots.
France's most prominent ISP France Télécom offers an 18Mbps connection, a VoIP package and digital TV for $45 per month.
Currently Paris is developing a strategy to employ city wide FTTH on an "open network." The project is currently being run by "Free", a subsidiary of French telecommunications company Iliad and is expected to take 5 years to complete costing around $1.3 billion. Subscribers to the service will receive a 50Mbps broadband connection, unlimited local calls (including some international options) and HDTV for $40 per month.
Not to be outdone, France Télécom is currently implementing an optical network capable of producing 2.5Gbps downstream speeds for its subscribers. The project is in developmental phases right now and available to a very limited number of users for $90 per month.
The government is also flirting with the idea of blanketing Paris in a WiMAX grid.
For the most part, the United Kingdom has reasonable broadband options with an 8Mbps connection averaging between $40 and $80 per month. The U.K. is loaded with Internet hotspots and offers a wide variety of WiFi options. If you're looking to shop around and get the most bang for your buck, the U.K. boasts enough broadband plans (and prices) to accommodate the most infrequent Internet user to the biggest businesses. As for the nation's most connected city, however, one need look no farther than Shoreditch, a town in east London.
An experiment in Shoreditch to reduce the crime rate and improve the quality of living turns a user's television into a full scale digital device. The project is called "Digital Bridge" and includes broadband Internet on your TV, unlimited evening and weekend phone calls, digital TV and our favorite feature: Shoreditch TV.
Shoreditch TV allows users to monitor a network of local cameras and watch the daily events in the city. If you're concerned about traffic on a particular road no problem, just change the channel and check it out! Shoreditch TV also allows the city to regulate crime. After all, what type of criminal would be inclined to steal a car knowing that a few hundred people are watching him?
With companies residing in the area including Google, Cisco, HP, Intel and Yahoo!, you can be sure that Silicon Valley is sure to rank among the world's most connected regions.
It what proves to be the biggest wireless project yet, Silicon Valley (an area covering 42 municipalities and 1,500 square miles in California) plans to provide its 4.2 million residents with free WiFi. The project aims to offer 1Mbps wireless Internet free of charge and is being spearheaded by IBM and Cisco.
Currently several cities in Silicon Valley -- including San Jose, Mountain View, and Santa Clara -- already offer city wide WiFi to their residents, making the area a frequent candidate among world leaders in broadband penetration.