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Internet coverage around the world

Jakub Bem
March 27th, 2020 · 4 min read

Over the past few years, the internet has become a common good for most of us. Countries with the most developed internet infrastructure have coverage as high as 99.6% (Qatar), which means that only 0.4% of people living there dont have internet access.

On the other end, we have Western Sahara and Chad. In Western Sahara, which is not very populated, 28 000 out of roughly 600 000 people have access to the internet (4.7%). Chad is a country with a population of 16.5 million and only 1 million has access to the internet (6.3%).

Why would a software agency write about that, though? Well, you cant understand how vital your website speed really is until you know how people around the world connect to the internet. Also, these are pretty interesting statistics.

How many people have internet access?

As of December 2019, there are almost 4.6 billion internet users out of nearly 8 billion people. It might come as a surprise but in our hyper-connected, globalized society 41% of people are NOT connected to the internet!

World Coverage

Least connected

Speaking of continents, Africa and Asia are the least connected. Respectively, only around 500 million out of 1.34 billion people in Africa (39%) have internet connection and 2.3 out of 4.3 billion in Asia (57%).

While Africa has consistently low connectivity throughout the continent, Asia is very diverse.

South Korea has the fastest mobile internet in the world and 96% internet coverage.

While Afghanistan has only 20% of the population connected to the internet, Myanmar has 33% and India has 41%. Its especially significant for India, whose population exceeds 1.3 billion, meaning that almost 800 million people do not have internet access there.

Of course, the least connected country on Earth is still North Korea, with only 0.1% connected to the internet.

Most connected

North America and Europe respectively have 94.6% and 87.2% of connected internet users.

Norway is leading the way in Europe with almost all of its citizens connected to the internet. Estonia is a close second and Denmark third. In North America, Canada has almost 93% coverage and the USA 89%. Overall, very impressive scores.

However, some of the countries in the Middle East trump these scores - previously mentioned Qatar, Bahrain and UAE all have coverage of over 98.5%. This shouldnt come as a surprise since these are one of the wealthiest countries on the globe and their internet infrastructure clearly reflects that.

Connection Speed

Connection speed

In terms of download speed, the global internet is becoming faster. Looking at all connected users, 64% of them have access to average download speeds above 20 Mbps. Thats 2.9 billion people - not great but not terrible either.

Is 20 Mbps fast?

In terms of downloading videos from the internet, its relatively fast. With the average size of a full HD movie between 2 and 4 GB, it will take 15-30 minutes to download.

However, think about a really poorly optimized website with lots of images, say it takes up as much as 10 MB of space. Even with a fast connection, it will take over 4 seconds to fully enjoy it.


Waiting annoys your users

Theres a study from 2017 by Google/SOASTA Research team, which explored how waiting affects the bounce rate (visitors leaving a website, before actually using it). These are the conclusions:

  1. 1-3 Second Page Load Time – 32% bounce rate increase
  2. 1-5 Second Page Load Time – 90% bounce rate increase
  3. 1-6 Second Page Load Time – 106% bounce rate increase
  4. 1-10 Second Page Load Time – 123% bounce rate increase

That means even when your website loads within 3 seconds or less, the probability of a visitor bouncing is a whopping 32%.

These statistics are from 2017. If you are using the internet daily, you surely noticed that during these three years we didnt get any more patient. Actually - quite the opposite - with everything in the world happening more quickly, we expect websites to load instantly.

And we are still talking about the most connected countries. What about the other 36% of the worlds internet users with a worse connection?

1 out of 5 users in the USA are connected to 3G only

Whats even more interesting is that Opensignal analysis shows a very high percentage of 3G-only users in California. It has the largest population, highest income and Silicon Valley, yet 9.7% of residents (almost 4 million!) are still using only 3G.

But why?

There are three main reasons why the U.S. citizens arent using 4G network:

  1. They dont have a 4G-capable device - 4.1%
  2. They arent covered by 4G networks - 12.7%
  3. They have a 4G-capable device but dont have a 4G rate plan - 83.2%

Whats also interesting, is that those connected to 3G-only spend 32% less time surfing the internet than those with 4G.

3G download speed

In the USA, 3G-only users reported an average download speed of 3.5 Mbps. That means 1 MB of data will download in 2 seconds - you definitely cant stream high-quality Netflix with that.

Lets go back to our poorly optimized website but this time lets assume its not that terrible. Your images are around 500-600 kilobytes each, but your website still downloads a lot of poorly optimized content. In the end, a web browser has to download around 5-6 MB of data.

That means that around 58 million Americans are going to be waiting up to 12 seconds before they can use your website. Remember the bounce rate statistic?

1-10 Second Page Load Time – 123% bounce rate increase

They dont even consider waiting for 12 seconds!

Heres a perfect spot to direct you to our blog post about Gatsby and building lighting fast websites 😎

Future with OneWeb, SpaceX and others

Currently, major players are competing to launch internet-providing satellites (or balloons) to Earths orbit. If they succeed, it should help deliver the internet connection to the 41% of people who currently miss out.

OneWeb is building its satellites in cooperation with Airbus. They will operate on low Earth orbit at approximately 1200 km altitude. The first six satellites of the constellation were launched in February 2019 and the first large batch of satellites was launched in February 2020.

SpaceX Starlink is going to consist of thousands of small satellites which, like OneWeb, are deployed to low Earth orbit (LEO). Currently, SpaceX has already launched 362 satellites, with plans to have a total of almost 12 000 satellites in the sky.

Facebook and Google are working on their projects as well.

Its an interesting race to watch and we can only hope that we dont end up with tons of space trash

Thanks for reading and as always - remember to contact us for extremely lightweight web solutions, which will work even if you only have 3G 😊

Numbers in the article come from credible sources and from our own analysis. Data points include:

And, of course, Wikipedia 😊

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