We’ve come a long way since the time of the dial-up internet, and yet the quest for fast internet continues. What does fast internet really mean, and where can it be enjoyed? The results are in, and you might even be in the right country to enjoy an uninterrupted streaming of your favorite shows.
A strong showing for CEE
According to the Worldwide Broadband Speed League 2023, a global ranking of internet network speeds derived from around 1.3 billion speed tests spanning 220 countries, the top 3 regions enjoying the fastest internet connection are Western Europe (118.69 Mbps), Northern America (94.02 Mbps), and the Baltics (80.09). Central and Eastern Europe, studied as a region, also performs well, ranking fourth globally with an average mean speed of 67.92 Mbps.
A closer look at the study, compiled by Cable.co.uk, reveals something interesting. Lumped together as a region, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia enjoy strong performance, but one country in Central and Eastern Europe, a region positioned lower than the Baltics, in fact, outperforms these three countries. Congrats, Slovakia!
Four of the five countries or territories with the fastest internet in the world are in Western Europe (the top five are as follows: The channel island of Jersey (264.52Mbps), Liechtenstein (246.76Mbps), Macau (231.40Mbps), Iceland (229.35Mbps) and Gibraltar (206.27Mbps). However, Slovakia came in eleventh in this year’s ranking, with 138.03 Mbps, compared to Lithuania’s average speed of 87.09 Mbps (37th position globally), Estonia’s 86.39 Mbps (38th) and Latvia’s 66.78 Mbps.
What do these numbers mean in practical terms? While in Slovakia, you’ll wait 04.57 seconds to download a 5GB movie, in the Baltics, you’ll need to add from 3 to 5 seconds to your wait time. And before you start complaining, bear in mind that downloading the same 5GB movie in last-placed Afghanistan will require a total of 6 hours and 38 minutes.
Where Europe dominates
“Speeds have increased globally by 30.044% since the same period in 2021/2022,” notes Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk. “Meanwhile, Europe continues to dominate the global league table, extending its lead over much of the world as ultra full fiber broadband (FTTP) continues to make an increasingly large dent in consumer uptake.”
Still, a lot needs to be done within the wider 3Seas region. Slovakia, the country boasting the fastest internet in Central and Eastern Europe, was followed by Romania in the 25th position (100.66 Mbps) and North Macedonia (97.88 Mbps, 26th place). But in the same region, Croatia ranked 124th globally with an average speed of 25.72 Mbps.
The data from Bulgaria, a country traditionally talking up its fast-speed internet, also give food for thought as it ranked 98th in the world with an average speed of 40.43 Mbps. What happened, and is the fast Bulgarian internet more of a product of wishful thinking than reality?
“Indeed, the internet is slower in the public sector, and this is a problem. There are innovations, but they are much slower,” says in a conversation with 3Seas Europe docent Vladimir Valkanov, vice dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Paisii Hilendarski University of Plovdiv. “But in terms of internet speed, we are in the top 5 in the world. We are certainly in line with European countries,” docent Valkanov adds. At least this year, the numbers beg to differ.
A long road ahead
“I am very surprised by the survey and Bulgaria’s 98th position. Apparently, we have failed quite a lot in this respect. Years ago, fast internet was a matter of pride. The world has pulled a lot ahead, and we are behind,” says Krasimir Rusev, a public figure from the town of Targovishte in northeastern Bulgaria. “The study is a signal to the public administration to act. The negative results also remind me that Bulgaria doesn’t have an e-government. We are only talking about it, but the long queues in front of the counters in the municipalities remain. This is something to consider, too.”
But things are not picture-perfect at the top, too. Estonia, a country with an actual world-famous e-government, is struggling with upgrading the speed of home fixed connection, The Postimees Daily reported at the end of 2022. With an average speed of 57 Mbps for such a connection, Estonia is lagging behind all its neighbors. Citing a lack of competition, Internet providers are not encouraged to increase the speed or lower their prices. This is how Estonian internet users end up paying EUR 70-72 a month for 1 Gb/s connection, while their neighbors in Latvia pay only EUR 18-21 for the same privilege.