Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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.
Especially for those who are operating businesses that rely on fast speeds for Skype calls, uploading video, transferring large files, etc. — fast internet can mean the difference in hours of productivity and thus thousands of dollars in sales.
As a perpetual traveler, I occasionally get stuck in a hotel with poor internet speeds, causing me great frustration. I can recall quite a few times being in Eastern Europe or parts of Southeast Asia and I’m either getting ready to purchase something online, or make a Skype call to finish some important work with a client, and right in the middle, the connection cuts out, and so does my productivity and sense of calm.
If you are like me, you simply cannot allow yourself to be staying in hotels, Airbnbs, or relying on public cafés or airports that do not stay up to speed if you need to get serious work done.
I do not even allow my Remote Team to even consider being based in a place where they can not have a reliable connection non-stop.
We have all been in that situation where we finally get settled in our hotel room and the wifi does not work, or constantly cuts out, or even if it’s offered, it’s slow and virtually unusable to reach any kind of workflow.
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. No longer are the ‘old world’, high-tax countries of the west the leaders in many areas… and that includes tech.
While Americans often make fun of other countries for their allegedly poor services, the United States does not rank as the #1 on this list, nor even in the top ten. 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 the smaller towns let alone Bucharest. Even cheap Airbnbs in Romania often offer 100Mb/s speeds.
According to Akamai, the global average for download speeds is 7.2 Mbps, an increase of 15% in the past year.
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 from their 2017 Connectivity report:
The countries with the world’s fastest average internet speed
1. South Korea – 28.6 Mb/s
South Korea ranks at number one for the location with the fastest average internet. The country still boasts speeds up to 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.
South Korea is one of the success stories of Asian economic growth over the last generation and the country is very pro-business and technologically advanced. Seoul is one of Asia’s foremost cities and a favorite of many travelers. We have talked before about the option of residency or second citizenship and South Korea which you can learn more about here. Regardless, traveling in this country will be very easy on the internet front.
2. Norway – 23.5 Mb/s
Norway is number two of fastest average internet speed in the world. The country is consistently ranked as the most developed in the world and the internet will likely not disappoint. Norway is one of the few countries in the world with a budget surplus and moreover, the currency, the Norwegian kroner, is typically regarded as the safe haven currency in this regions thanks to Norway’s abundance of oil wealth.
I often like to share the story of how I once spent seven months learning Norwegian in preparation for a fact-finding mission to Norway and the most important take away from the trip ended up being that I spent too much time focusing on the wrong things, as nearly everyone there spoke perfect English. Either way, the fast internet here will keep you able to communicate and run your business and life effectively.
3. Sweden – 22.5 Mb/s
Like its neighbor Norway next door, Sweden also ranks in the top 5 on the list. Sweden is also home to some of the best co-working spaces in Europe which pairs well with reliable and fast internet infrastructure and a generally educated, English-competent society. The Swedish passport was ranked #1 in our Nomad Passport Index as Swedish citizens can visit 176 countries without a visa, enjoy an excellent reputation abroad, hold dual or multiple citizenships, and enjoy high levels of personal freedom.
4. Hong Kong – 21.9 Mb/s
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 is second in peak internet speed (the top speed accessible to internet users), trailing just behind Singapore and it is ranked #1 on or Quality of Life Index in 2017– high internet speed has certainly contributed to that fact.
I can speak to the speed of Hong Kong’s internet myself—while traveling not long ago, I downloaded an entire hourlong TV episode from iTunes in just 86 seconds (yeah, I timed it). 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. Like most Asian super-cities, Hong Kong will make it easy to connect to internet in most if not all public places and any hotels or apartments you are spending time in will likely enjoy high speeds as well.
5. Switzerland – 21.7 Mb/s
The famed hub of everything privacy, wealth, and safety, Switzerland also offers fast internet. If one of the best passports in the world, good banking, low taxes for intellectual property aren’t enough for you, Switzerland can also fulfill your technological needs and provide world-class infrastructure for business and wealth management. Some may find the very orderly and reserved society a bit ‘too sterile’ at times, but generally, Switzerland can be considered one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe and a place to aspire to travel to or potentially reside in for high-achieving entrepreneurs.
6. Finland – 20.5 Mb/s
North European countries continue to rank highly across all countries with the fastest internet in 2017 with Finland coming in sixth. Finland has a distinctly different culture and language to the rest of its Scandinavian neighbors but ranks similarly in terms of key economic indicators and well-respected passports with extensive visa-free access. Finland is also highly rated as third in rule of law and and third in least corrupt, but also ranks among the highest tax rates in the world. Finland has a growing entrepreneurial community and hosts some of the best co-working spaces in Europe. Helsinki has more than once been on the top list of cities to live in and we believe more nomads will turn to it in upcoming years.
7. Singapore – 20.3 Mb/s
The highly advanced city-state of Singapore does many things well (including banking and general economic freedom) and fast interent speeds are among them. Singapore tops the list of the world’s fastest peak internet speed and is seventh on the global average list. This tech-savvy, pro-business, and pro-expat place continues to be a favorite among entrepreneurs who want to live in a society that makes being successful and productive easy. Singapore is also a great place to look for permanent residency and entrepreneurial investment, though the country does not allow dual citizenship.
8. Japan – 20.2 Mb/s
Would you expect any less from tech-savvy Japan? The speed of information access and precision in getting things done is built into the framework of Japanese society. 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 the 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. Moreover, Japan offers many areas of public wifi that make accessing your needed services and getting download/uploads done in your business very quick and painless.
9. Denmark – 20.1 Mb/s
Denmark is the last European country on our top 10 list coming in at the ninth country in the world for fastest internet. Denmark is consistently rated as one of the most developed and freest economies and is a member of the European Union (however not the euro-zone, as they use their own currency, the Danish krone).
If you are looking to spend time in a highly advanced Scandinavian country with fast internet known for its national happiness, Denmark may be a great place for you to focus your travels. In terms of its passport freedom, Denmark is tied at #8 on the Nomad Passport Index.
While notorious for its regulations, its extremely high tax rate, and its redistributive social framework, Denmark one of the best places for asset protection and is rated #1 for respect of rule of law and #2 for least corrupt countries. It is also a country that is attractive for copyright royalties if you are someone who needs a low-tax jurisdiction to protect your intellectual property.
10. United States – 18.7 Mb/s
How do internet speeds in the United States compare to the rest of the world? Again, while many may think the US offers the most competitive technology in the world, they were ranked #10 on the overall list of countries with the fastest internet speeds. That’s an improvement from previous years.
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 or Yemen, which suffer from the world’s slowest download speeds. (They are, however, making progress.)
As a traveling entrepreneur, internet is one of the most important — if not the most important — utility that can allow you to get what you need to done. These countries offer the best of the best in terms of average speed and provide a framework for internet users that is reflective of today’s most advanced technology.
While there still may be moments in your travels where you are stuck using that 15 Kb/s connection at your hotel or airport lounge, hopefully, the state of the internet will continue to expand and you can focus your time on these countries with the fastest internet into the year 2017 and beyond.
Have you had a positive (or negative) experience with internet speeds while traveling or living abroad? Share it in the comments below.