The internet may be one of the largest shared infrastructure networks in the world, but the strength of those networks is not shared equally. Depending on where you are in the world, your internet experience can be vastly different; download speed, latency, and available bandwidth can all be affected by your location.
So how do you know how your internet connection stacks up? Enter the global internet rankings: a series of data collections from internet service providers, speed test apps, and telecoms. By collating the live experience of hundreds of millions of users from around the world, these companies are able to provide up-to-date information on the state of the internet in every country, state and even city.
Why are internet rankings done?
The internet has rapidly become one of the most important parts of everyday life for billions of people; from our workplaces, our social lives, shopping, even paying our bills. The quality of your internet connection has a huge impact on the quality of your life.
For most people, their only benchmark for internet quality is their own country. If the internet in your area has become faster or more stable over the last few years, you might be inclined to think your internet quality is high.
However by comparing all connections around the world, and making this data publicly available, people can better understand the quality of their internet and make more informed decisions about their service providers.
Businesses and governments can also draw major insights from this data, and use it for planning major projects or policy decisions. These insights often show which tangible factors have the greatest impact on the country’s digital wellbeing, and which areas should be prioritized in improving its potential.
Who does the rankings?
Global internet rankings are drawn from a variety of sources, depending on the data point being measured. One of the most common is internet speed; how fast your individual connection is at both downloading and uploading data. Sites like speedtest.net allow individuals to conduct their own speed tests, and then collate this data to show average speeds for different locations.
Other rankings look at a broader range of data points, like the SurfShark Digital Quality of Life Index which combines five fundamental pillars that define the quality of a persons internet experience. These pillars are:
- Internet affordability
- Internet quality
- Electronic infrastructure
- Electronic security
- Electronic government
How is the data measured?
A number of different methodologies are used to gather the data for global internet rankings, and often these different methodologies can return conflicting results. From this, it’s important to understand the most common methodologies, and the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Consumer Initiated Testing
Consumer-initiated tests are intentionally started by a person and run live at that person’s time and location, providing a snapshot of the internet quality for that person. This is perhaps the most straightforward approach to gathering data on internet quality, as it is a single metric tested over and over again by hundreds of millions of people..
The Ookla speed test utilises this method to capture data on internet speed, as well as packet loss, jitter, errors, and other network conditions.
The main drawback of this method is that it requires a large number of users in the same location to generate a statistically significant view across all desired dimensions. In areas with less internet access, it can be very difficult to get accurate results.
Drive testing measures the coverage and capacity of a network by simulating user environments while literally driving through various areas. This process simulates lab testing conditions to provide a more accurate data set, is therefore a good way to determine the theoretical capacity and limits of a given cellular network.
The main drawback of drive testing is that it requires someone to drive lab test vehicles around vast geographic areas. This makes performing multiple, identical and independent tests around the world difficult – roads only cover so much of any particular area, and the resources required are much larger than other methods.
Background testing is performed on user devices without their having to initiate the test; running in the background periodically whenever the device is on. This method gives a more random (and therefore accurate) data set than consumer initiated testing, which are usually only run when the user is having problems with their connection.
Background testing is also typically more dispersed, providing more data from a wider geographic area which is very useful for generating coverage maps. However this is also a drawback to background testing: the device may been in a different geographic location during the test, but it may also be in a different physical location such as a pocket, a backpack, or in a parking garage. This can limit the accuracy of each test and the data collected.
Passive testing is a form of background testing that monitors the network usage of other applications on the mobile device itself. These are not standalone tests, but more data collected continuously on the performance of various apps and networks.
This makes passive testing results most indicative of the internet experience a person receives when using a specific app or service, and can demonstrate the broader digital quality of lift for a user.
The main drawback to passive testing is that some devices limit or block these tests, meaning that datasets can be blind to large sections of the population that uses these devices. For example, many apple devices block passive testing, so data from apple users is not present in the set.
What insights have been discovered through global internet rankings?
The results of global internet rankings can often be enlightening, especially for individual users who may be surprised to discover what they thought was an average connection is actually ranked very low.
Rankings can also be used to identify similarities and differences in quality of life. For example, the top 5 nations for internet speed are all from western europe, while nations like the US and the UK (who are typically considered to be at the top of the developed world) only rank 20th and 47th.
Broader rankings like the digital quality of life index shed further insights; in particular that every country has room for improvement, even the top ranked countries for speed. Those western european countries for example also have the lowest rates of internet affordability, while both Canada and France have poor stability.
Other interesting correlations can also be drawn from these data sets, such as that more affordable internet does not correlate with increased digital quality of life, and countries with high GDP like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia fail to provide better digital wellbeing for their citizens.
Find out more about your internet quality
Want to know how your connection stacks up with the rest of the world? Check out the global internet rankings we’ve already mentioned in this article at the links below, then get in touch with your internet service provider to see about getting a world class connection.