Internet speeds fall up to 50% during Covid-19 lockdown

Internet speeds fall up to 50% during Covid-19 lockdown, says survey

04 August 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The Covid-19 pandemic has hit broadband speeds across the world, with some countries seeing speeds fall by 40-50%.

Central America and north Africa were the worst hit, according to data from Cable.co.uk, a UK-based market analysis company.

“The results are startling,” said Dan Howdle, the consumer telecoms analyst in charge of the study. “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.”

Cable.co.uk’s annual global broadband speed tracker has demonstrated global increases of around 20% year-on-year since 2017, he said. “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.”

Howdle’s team identified five countries whose average internet speeds dropped the most during their lockdown periods: China recorded a fall of 50.97%, Panama of 48.99%, Madagascar of 37.71%, Chile of 36.77% and Peru of 36.76%.

The team used data from over 364 million broadband speed tests courtesy of M-Lab, a California-based lab that collects open internet performance data. M-Lab used teams from Code for Science & Society, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google and Princeton University’s PlanetLab to compare average internet speeds in 114 countries during and outside of their most stringent Covid-19 lockdown periods.

The lockdown data came from the Oxford Coronavirus Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), based at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.

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.”

The region where speeds dropped by the greatest percentage overall was Central America, with an average drop of 26.03% during its combined lockdown periods.

Only Costa Rica showed a rise, while Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador showed falls in speed.

Speeds in the US went up by 3.32%, while Canadian speeds fell 10.82%, says the report.

Western Europe, with its broadly capable network infrastructure, was among the regions with the smallest average drop in measured speeds, with a regional drop of 4.66% during lockdown periods compared to time outside of lockdowns.

Finland fell by 24.81%, the Netherlands by 13.01%, Austria by 10.47%, Italy by 10.44%, and Norway by 7.38%. The UK experienced a drop of 1.70% during its own lockdown period.

Howdle said: “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.”

Full data and methodology available here