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Last updated March 25, 2017
Whether you’re a serious location independent entrepreneur, running a local business, or just a casual surfer, slow internet is a real drag.
It’s bad for business, and in today’s connected world, it can cause a lot of stress in all areas of your life.
As a perpetual traveler, I occasionally get stuck in a hotel with poor internet speeds, causing me great frustration. However, internet around the world is typically much better than you think — and, believe it or not, even emerging countries have some of the fastest internet speeds. In fact, the countries with the best wifi are often outside of the western world.
While Americans often make fun of other countries for their allegedly poor services, the United States doesn’t even rank on the list of countries with the fastest internet speeds. Asia and eastern Europe have long held strong positions in these studies; while Romania no longer cracks the top ten average speeds, you’d be hard pressed to find bad wifi in Bucharest, and even cheap Airbnbs often offer 100Mb/s speeds.
According to Akamai, the global average for download speeds is 6.3Mb/s, up from 5.6Mb/s a year ago. Certainly not great considering that I have 100Mb/s fiber internet in my home in Georgia or that the airport lounge in Seoul has wifi so fast you can download an HD movie in several minutes. The good news is speeds are improving.
Companies like Akamai compile speed tests every quarter, and these are the latest results:
The countries with the world’s fastest internet
Take note of yet another reason to prefer smaller countries: faster internet. The Netherlands is not only a small and universally well-connected European country, but it has average connection speeds of 17Mb/s, and peak speeds nearly four times that high. Compared to the United States, internet service in the Netherlands can be surprisingly inexpensive, as well.
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4. South Korea
South Korea has dropped a few spots from its previous number-two ranking. However, the country still boasts some of the world’s fastest internet, including speeds 65% faster than the United States. South Korea is also one of the most aggressive countries in targeting gigabit speeds for its internet users. Nevertheless, Freedom House suggests that, despite these high speeds, internet users are not completely free when surfing in South Korea. The organization has reported that bloggers have been arrested as internet freedom in general declines worldwide.
Don’t judge this country by its less advanced neighbors. Romania is Europe’s emerging internet hosting destination, with plenty of companies setting up their web host in this Eastern European jurisdiction to benefit from super-fast speed and affordable labor costs. Romania has some of the world’s fastest download speeds, with an average of 47.9 megabits per second. In fact, the country recorded the worlds single fastest download earlier in 2013.
Serious internet users can access speeds up to 200 megabits per second in Romania. While every household in the EU can get internet access, Romanians have an 85% penetration rate for in-home internet access.
Would you expect any less from tech-savvy Japan? High-speed fiber optics run throughout the country, enabling some of the world’s fastest internet speeds. Peak speeds in Japan are nearly triple the global average for internet users. But the country known for its human-like robots and other cutting-edge technology isn’t content with its current speeds — not by a long shot.
Japan is one of several countries working on 100Gbps internet using advanced “optical packet switching technology”. For now, one Japanese internet provider is offering 2Gbps speeds — twice the pace of Google Fiber — for about $50 a month. That makes it the world’s fastest commercially available internet service.
1. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is no slouch when it comes to providing top-notch services to its tech-savvy residents. That’s why it’s no surprise that the hyper-dense Special Administrative Region of China dominates the list of countries with the fastest internet speeds. In fact, it was the first country to break the 60Mbps speed barrier. Hong Kong’s average speed of 64 megabits per second is more than triple the global average.
I can speak to this myself. Earlier this year, I downloaded an entire hourlong TV episode from iTunes in just 86 seconds (yeah, I timed it).
Internet speeds in Hong Kong increased as much as 29% over the previous year, as well. It’s all thanks to Hong Kong’s commitment to “Fiber To The Home” service, as well as companies’ use of aggressive high-speed internet pricing.
How do internet speeds in the United States compare? In case you’re still wondering, the United States ranked eleventh on the overall list of countries with fastest internet speeds. That’s an improvement from fourteenth in a previous year, with the 36 megabit-per-second speed clocking at almost double the global average.
However, experts say US internet service is “overpriced and slow” among tech-savvy nations. At least US internet speeds aren’t as slow as those in the Congo, which suffers from the world’s slowest download speeds, at just 13Kbps. Somebody go back to 1996 and get those guys a 56K modem. (They are, however, making progress.)
Have you had a positive (or negative) experience with internet speeds while traveling or living abroad? Share it in the comments below.
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