According to the latest 2020 Worldwide Broadband Speed League report, the Western Europe is the global speed frontrunner, with eight of the top ten fastest countries in the world for broadband.
The report is based on the analysis of over 557 million broadband speed tests conducted across 221 countries.
The principality of Liechtenstein has the fastest broadband with an average speed of 229.98Mbps, followed by Jersey (218.37Mbps), Andorra (213.41Mbps), Gibraltar (183.09 Mbps) and Luxembourg (118.05 Mbps).
Only Hong Kong (105.32Mbps) and Hungary (99.74Mbps) made it into the top ten fastest in the world outside of Western Europe.
Broadband speed gap increasing
The gap between the haves and have-nots is rapidly increasing. To illustrate, in 2019 the slowest five countries had 125 times slower broadband speed compared to the five fastest. In 2020 the fastest five are 276 times faster.
The Northern Africa region had the lowest broadband speed (average 3.80Mbps), while the Western Europe had the highest average speed of 81.19Mbps.
As the report highlights, the laggards are not slowing, they are simply not increasing their broadband speed while the fastest countries continue to grow.
Broadband speed in the Balkans
Most of the Balkans countries fall under the Eastern Europe region (16 qualifying countries in total) with an overall average of 39.08Mbps.
The fastest three were Hungary (99.74Mbps, 10th), Slovakia (72.26Mbps, 19th) and Slovenia (65.46Mbps, 25th). Unfortunately, the slowest three were Bosnia and Herzegovina (15.66Mbps, 88th), Albania (12.36Mbps, 104th), and North Macedonia (11.48Mbps, 109th).
While the average broadband speed in all Western Balkans countries is above 10Mbps – the minimum requirements of a typical family or small business – it’s obvious that the region is falling behind.
Even more worrying sign is trend over the last three years.
As the table below testifies, countries around the region are doing much better and constantly improving – on average – whereas most of the Western Balkans’ countries are slipping back.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||88||86||71||15.66|
To make things easier to understand, the report presents data on the time needed to download an HD movie of 5GB in size. In Liechtenstein it takes only 2 minutes, while Montenegrin citizens will have to wait 13 times longer or 30 times longer if you happen to live in North Macedonia (59:27 minutes).
What should the countries in the region do?
Smaller countries and regions (Liechtenstein, Jersey, Andorra, and Gibraltar) are leaders for two reasons.
One, there is strong political will coupled with business interests to continuously upgrade the system to full fibre. Two, it is fair to say that all the four are miniature and are much easier to upgrade compared to larger countries.
However, the report clearly shows that the best performers are countries focusing on developing pure fibre (FTTP) networks or looking to upgrade to fibre or LTE from older technologies.
Countries struggling to make the most of FTTC and ADSL solutions are lagging behind and will hardly catch up unless there’s a paradigm change.
This is the lesson for the entire Balkans to remember if we are to fully embrace digital transformation.
The entire region must step-up efforts in developing more sophisticated digital infrastructure through domestic and international initiatives such as the European broadband funding for the Western Balkans.