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Broadband, Phone & TV

Broadband speeds in Europe drop during coronavirus lockdown

Broadband speeds in Europe drop during coronavirus lockdown
Rob Flynn

Rob Flynn

Staff Writer

A new study from cable.co.uk has revealed that countless countries experienced a drop-off in broadband speeds while implementing lockdown procedures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The last five months have not been easy, especially when we were restricted to staying in our homes. One thing was a saving grace for many, however, and that was a reliable broadband connection.

From having access to hours upon hours of streamable content, to helping stay informed with the most up-to-date public health information, a trusty broadband connection is currently one of the most in-demand modern utilities.

However, newly released data from cable.co.uk has revealed that broadband speeds in parts of Europe, as well as across the globe, experienced a consistent drop during the lockdown period.

A recent study conducted by the company, combining data from over 364 million broadband speed tests, and comparing average internet speeds in 114 countries that implemented a lockdown, revealed that broadband speeds dropped globally by 6.31% on average during the period.

Data analysed between January 1st and June 30th 2020 from those countries revealed that, despite lockdown not being a direct cause, it massively contributed to a reversal in the trend of global broadband getting faster each year.

Some parts of the world fared better than others, however. Take a look at some of the most important stats from the study below.

The picture in Europe

In western Europe there was a regional drop in average broadband speeds of -4.66% during the lockdown period, with 12 out of 15 countries in the area registering a drop in speed during this time period.

Despite the west being among the regions with the smallest average drop in measured speeds, Finland (-24.81%), Netherlands (-13.01%), Austria (-10.47%), and Italy (-10.44%) surprisingly scored quite poorly, despite having access to advanced infrastructure unavailable in other regions.

The speed changes exhibited from Ireland (-2.23%), United Kingdom (-1.70%), Portugal (-0.19%), and Switzerland (+2.90%) were the lowest from the countries in the west, and were considered to be negligible considering the broad and capable network infrastructure in place.

Eastern Europe, however, fared somewhat better with an average drop in measured speeds of only -1.17%, with most countries displaying almost no change, with the exception of Hungary (-13.26%), Moldova (+25.54%), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (+45.33%) who accounted for a major drop and increase respectively.

Underperforming regions

Central America was the region which saw speeds drop by the greatest percentage overall, registering an average drop of -26.03% in the lockdown period.

Northern Africa recorded the second-highest overall drop in internet speeds during the period according to the data from the qualifying countries.

Five out of the six countries in this region that implemented a lockdown saw their broadband speeds drop significantly with Panama (-48.99%), Guatemala (-14.30%), Honduras (-3.69%), Mexico (-2.35%), and El Salvador (-0.01%) all experiencing varying drops.

Panama was the only country in this region which saw its speed increase, albeit minimally at +0.82%.

Internet speeds in Asia (excl. Near east) dropped by -16.33%, with China (-50.97%) showing the largest drop both in the region and the world. South Korea (-30.45%), Malaysia (-29.51%), Sri Lanka (-23.29%), Bangladesh (-21.76%), India (-21.05%), and Nepal (-20.77%) also experienced significantly slower speeds during their lockdowns.

All the while Afghanistan (+23.95%), and Vietnam (+12.84%) bucked the trend in Asia, showing statistically significant increases in speed during their lockdowns.

Interestingly, of the 14 qualifying countries in the Near East region, broadband speeds saw a decrease of only -1.49% on average, with the countries United Arab Emirates (-18.42%), Israel (-14.59%), Saudi Arabia (-12.62%), and Yemen (-11.69%) recording the largest drops. Qatar was one of two countries studied to show no change.

The regions of South America , Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and North America also registered varying drops in speed at -16.11%, -14.24%, -12.05%, and -2.91% respectively.

What the experts had to say

Consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, Dan Howdle said:

“We set out to identify changes in network speeds in countries around the world which had instituted lockdown policies that put restrictions on populations that may cause more time to be spent at home, and thereby more time spent using the internet. Thanks to the Oxford COVID Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) and its highly useful stringency index, we were able to pinpoint the precise period in each country where lockdowns were at their most life-limiting, and match them up with over 364 million (M-Lab) speed tests.

"The results are startling. Although an overall drop of just -6.31% across all countries doesn't sound like an awful lot, this figure moves very much against the tide. Our annual global broadband speed tracker has demonstrated global increases of around 20% year-on-year since 2017. For the majority of countries in this study to be moving in the opposite direction during their COVID-19 lockdowns, then, is all the more significant.”

Mr Howdle, importantly said of the study:

"While it is impossible to attribute direct causality, our study shows a high correlation between lockdown periods around the world and dips in measured internet speeds, with some regions of the world measuring the most substantial drops, and others more or less unchanged. The picture is an interesting one indeed, and I hope our work will be of interest to anyone who seeks to further understand the influence of stringent lockdown measures on network capacity and capability."

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