SpeedChecker, a crowdsourcing company, has announced the results of its 2021 awards on mobile network speeds and coverage in Africa. The awards are given to countries and mobile operators in 2 categories : Fastest mobile network champion and Best mobile coverage champion.
Unlike other comparisons and studies done before this one is based on the data points collected from millions of mobile devices in Africa. This means data is not skewed or biased towards some operators or regions and provides a true picture of how the mobile networks are performing on this continent.
The best countries with fastest Internet are not surprisingly Morocco at #1 and South Africa at #2, followed by Tunisia at #3. More surprisingly is Mali at spot #4 as this land-locked relatively poor country has beaten bigger and more developed countries on this metric.
The 2nd category of the best mobile coverage on the continent has island countries with beautiful Mauritius winning the Best mobile coverage champion award, followed by islands of Comoros and Seychelles. From the continental Africa the top spot is taken by Egypt followed by South Africa and Kenya.
For full details of winners and rankings, please download the file below.
In recent years crowdsourcing has become a popular method to evaluate quality of service of telecommunication networks. In May 2020 recommendation E.812 : Crowdsourcing approach for the assessment of end-to-end quality of service in fixed and mobile broadband networks, has been approved in ITU Study Group 12.
Crowdsourced data has following advantages over traditional probe-based data collection systems:
Crowdsourced data contain large amount of geographically diverse measurements
Since the measurements are collected from end user mobile devices, geographic distribution of the measurements follows the population density
They are more representative of the actual user experience
They not only support active measurements but also can monitor passively the network utilization from the mobile device during the time the users perform their normal activities
They reveal additional information such as handset usage
For the purpose of disaster mapping their additional benefits such as:
Device GPS sensor can provide accurate position of the measurements
Large amount of data samples can provide better view of the size of the impact area
Measurements can be scheduled remotely without the need to place the probes in advance
More information can be found in E.812.
In 2020 ITU and SpeedChecker started evaluating a concept of using crowdsourced QoS measurements for disaster connectivity mapping. A prototype Disaster Connectivity Map (DCM) was built and tested on an ITU server, which takes measurement data provided by SpeedChecker.
Data collection methodology
Data is collected from end user devices running Android and iOS systems. SpeedChecker partners with 3rd party app publishers which have popular apps in the stores. SpeedChecker offers a mobile SDK (https://github.com/speedchecker/speedchecker-sdk-android) that can be integrated into 3rd party apps. End users opt-in to providing accurate location to SpeedChecker. SpeedChecker anonymizes the results and all reports are built on aggregated data which does not reveal user identity or compromises user’s privacy.
All measurements are executed towards a CDN which has a large geographical footprint and hosts a significant part of the content that is being accessed by the users. This ensures the results are a good approximation of the user’s actual quality of experience. All measurements must contain accurate location information using GPS or wi-fi geolocation method. Measurements are considered only from the apps that have been approved by SpeedChecker. Submitted measurements are checked if they are within expected ranges and additional security precautions are implemented to ensure measurement data is not being manipulated.
Diagram of the SpeedChecker crowdsourcing system
Baseline measurements show connectivity performance map
During 2020 a series of measurement campaigns were executed by SpeedChecker which were used to produce baseline maps in the DCM which show connectivity performance in selected countries under the normal (baseline) situation without any disaster event happening.
SpeedChecker delivered approx 30,000 measurements in the period of 7 – 14 May 2020 for three pilot countries of Dominica (3,805 points), Fiji (11,775 points), and the Philippines (15,406 points). Each measurement consisted of ping (Ms) + download speed (Kbps) + upload speed (Kbps), Latitude, Longitude, Country, City, Connection, Platform, Network, and IP Address.
The results showed a good spatial distribution of datapoints within these countries, in line with population density. In the prototype DCM the measurements are then processed in an SQL database to be aggregated by space and time, before they are plotted as a point grid on the map.
These maps to the right show the point grid produced for Fiji, with individual datapoints aggregated into grid cells at a resolution of 1 sq.km increasing to 100 sq.m and 10 sq.m to show more granularity as the map is progressively zoomed in to the capital city of Suva. This method also further anonymises the spatial location of individual users providing input measurement data.
From this measurement data a bandwidth surface can also be generated for each measurement type (ping, download speed, upload speed) by interpolating these known points to estimate performance in all those other places without measurement values.
This bandwidth surface can be displayed as a heatmap, raster, or as bandwidth isolines (or “contours”). Dynamic bandwidth contours can be produced in near real-time because as the underlying data points change, the map changes automatically as map is rendered on-the-fly.
Real time measurements detect network outages during disaster events
The prototype Disaster Connectivity Map was tested in a real time disaster situation during December 2020, when category 5 tropical cyclone Yasa hit Fiji from 16 – 18 December 2020. The 11,775 measurements taken in May 2020 provided a reliable baseline to show where and what was the level of connectivity across Fiji under normal circumstances.
At the request of ITU, SpeedChecker started a new measurement campaign on 16 December which lasted for five days and delivered 68,207 measurements in the period of 17 – 21st December. Tropical storm Yasa made landfall on island of Vanua Levu in the early morning of 17 December, with high winds and flooding causing significant damage and network outages along the path of the storm across the islands of Fiji.
The maps from the DCM prototype to the right show a clear pattern in which connectivity is reduced across most of Fiji on 17 December, and then gradually returns over the course of the next three to five days but that there are some places in Vanua Levu and other islands where persistent connectivity gaps and network outages remain.
The number of measurements obtained over the five day period is also telling compared with the baseline of 11,775 results obtained in May 2020. A total of 4,101 results were obtained in the 24 hours until 17 December (approx one third of the baseline), which increased to 7,919 results on 18 December (approx two thirds), and had returned to the normal level of 12,442 results on 19 December.
Of the total of 68,207 measurements taken during this period, seventy percent (47,646) were obtained from mobile devices connected to cellular networks. By comparing the location of these datapoints against cell towers it was possible to determine which individual cells had been either ‘seen’ or ‘not seen’ during the period. Cellular network coverage was filtered on this basis, to show which cells sites were not seen.
SpeedChecker shares their insights on how the new AWS and Azure data centers in the Middle East have contributed to reducing latency and improving the user experience.
In recent years it’s without question that operators in the region are improving the user experience considerably. 5G dominates the industry, focusing both on the investment front as well as on the marketing push. A less sexy topic to boast about is the continuous drive to improve the interconnections which play a major role in improving the user experience as well. Operators, when launching 5G, often accompany marketing messages with speed test app screenshots showcasing 1Gb+ speeds. This indicates the challenge in the industry to find the real use cases for 5G as, surely, the purpose of 5G is not just making speed tests faster.
At SpeedChecker we look beyond measuring fastest 5G speeds: our testing methodologies look at capturing data on the user experience such as video streaming, web browsing or services relying on low latency. One of the topics that we feel does not get enough attention from the industry is the impact of new data centers in the region and how they improve the latencies and, in effect, user experience of many services which are hosted in the region and are latency sensitive.
First Microsoft Azure and then, soon after, Amazon AWS launched new data centres in the Middle East. Azure launched in the United Arab Emirates in June 2019 and AWS launched in Bahrain in July 2019.
Shortly after the launch SpeedChecker evaluated the connections to the new data centers from the Middle East region. The results were not pretty: most of the connections to both Azure in UAE and AWS in Bahrain were not providing low latency links that would improve the quality of experience. With the exception of Bahrain and UAE which interconnected very well, the rest of the countries had latencies to the new datacenters in the Middle East that were similar to those in Europe. This meant that to truly offer great user experience across the region CDNs such as Cloudflare had to be utilized.
Chart 1: Average latency to AWS Bahrain, Azure UAE, Cloudflare and DigitalOcean Amsterdam in 2019
Fortunately, since 2019 the situation has improved considerably for both AWS and Azure clouds.
Chart 2: Average latency to AWS Bahrain, Azure UAE, Cloudflare and DigitalOcean Amsterdam in 2021
The biggest improvements were experienced for users in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The latencies to the new datacenters in UAE and Bahrain from those countries decreased by more than 100%.
Not all users in those countries benefited equally though. Some operators invested heavily in improving the latencies, most notably Ooredoo (in Qatar, Kuwait and Oman), STC (Kuwait and KSA), Omantel and Turkcell.
While there were plenty of improvements for the AWS and Azure datacenters, not much can be said with Cloudflare. Cloudflare, being one of the most popular CDNs in the world, hosting over 10% of websites worldwide did not experience similar gains. Noted, Cloudflare already has one of the best low latency offers in the region but was overtaken in some markets such as KSA, Qatar, UAE, Oman.
The reason being that Cloudflare caches were not deployed to few key operators in the region. While Zain group has been very welcoming with Cloudflare as well as Ooredoo group, bigger MNOs such as STC in KSA or Etisalat have not decided to set up partnerships yet.
As we can see in the charts above, the latencies for countries which do not have local caches are more than twice as slow as countries with a high percentage of cache access. The reason being that users with no local cache access are sent to EU-based datacenters. This is an unfortunate situation in the region as it has a big impact on the user experience. In other regions such as the EU the lack of local CDN cache does not pose a big impact on the user experience as the users who do not have access to local cache can be routed efficiently to neighbouring countries which are geographically not very far and therefore the latency impact is minimal.
The situation in the region has improved considerably since 2019 and it is the new data centers and the partnerships with carriers and operators that have enabled this for the users. The biggest gains were observed with AWS and Azure datacenters which will push more local companies to host with those platforms and enable consumers to have an improved user experience.
Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS Launched new data centres in the summer of 2019
First Microsoft Azure and then, soon after, Amazon AWS launched new data centres in the Middle East. Azure launched in United Arab Emirates in June and AWS launched in Bahrain in July. In this report we examine the latencies achieved to these servers and compare them to existing options such as hosting in EU or using CDNs with presence in the Middle East. We compare latencies from 13 countries in the Middle East and identify the winners and losers.
Microsoft and Amazon are not short of ambition. Here is how Sayed Hashish, Regional General Manager, Microsoft Gulf described the new regions:
“These new cloud regions in the UAE are the dawn of a new era, driving digital transformation, economic growth and job creation.”
In this report we show which countries should switch to the new data centres if latency and network performance is important and, just as important, which countries should stay where they are (at least for the time being).
SpeedChecker Measurement Methodology
SpeedChecker analysed measurements collected from over 50,000 latency tests taken during business hours for one day in August 2019. This is how the samples were collected:
From both cellular and fixed connections
The distribution of samples between cellular and fixed connections were approximately equal except for Iraq and Palestein where there were a bigger proportion of fixed connections.
The same number of samples were taken from each country to each of the CDN providers used in our report to ensure equal comparison
Location of devices determined by geographical information on the device to be within one of the 13 countries in the Middle East as shown in the results
Latency tests results include samples from all MNOs/ISPs used by the users during the sampling period.
We compare latencies of new Azure and AWS regions with established CDN in Middle East – Cloudflare, which offers decent coverage, performance for a reasonable price. We also compare against Digital Ocean Amsterdam datacenter to have a reference point when content is hosted outside the Middle East.
Our tests are designed to accurately measure the latency experienced by the user at the time of test. We further analyse the results to remove any tests that fail our quality control including where there is some anomaly in the result that makes it unreliable.
Looking at the mean latency from all our results in the Middle East shows that connections to Cloudflare and Digital Ocean provide the lowest latency. It is to be expected that Cloudflare would do well because they have data centres in all of the countries in our report except for Palestine. The second fastest (Digital Ocean – EU) is some 35% slower than Cloudflare.
It is surprising to see that the Bahrain and UAE servers from Amazon AWS and Azure are both slower than the Digital Ocean EU servers despite being closer geographically. There is not much to choose between them with both of them being less around 15% slower than the Digital Ocean EU servers and some 60% slower than Cloudflare’s local Middle East servers.
The chart below compares the latency from each country to each of the four data centres. Amazon and Azure do best in Bahrain and UAE (their host countries) but there is little difference in the other countries. Cloudflare produce some good results in Bahrain, Turkey and Qatar.
Winners: Bahrain and United Arab Emirates
In this chart we compare latencies to the data centres from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other countries (excluding UAE and Bahrain). Not surprisingly we see that UAE and Bahrain get the best results from Azure and AWS data centres located in their countries. What is striking is that UAE gets a very similar performance from the AWS server in Bahrain as it does from its local Azure server.
Bahrain also does well when using Cloudflare servers but below the average of other countries when using Digital Ocean. UAE have slower results than average to both Digital Ocean and Cloudflare data centres making the introduction of local data centres all the more important.
We also see that other countries gain little from the new data centres with average latency being slower to AWS and Azure than to Cloudflare or even the Digital Ocean EU data centres.
If latency and network performance is critical for your business in the Middle East, you have to carefully decide which cloud to choose. As indicated in this post there are some staggering differences between latencies to Azure and AWS clouds depending on the countries your users are from. If your business caters to Bahrain or UAE, you cannot go wrong by picking any of the two platforms. However, if you expect decent latencies across the whole Middle East, you should consider using CDNs such as Cloudflare or Akamai which have a good footprint in the region with good connections across the majority of the countries.
The new AWS and Azure data centres are still, unfortunately, not well connected beyond Bahrain and UAE and, as you can see from our data, the latencies are similar to those you would expect by hosting your content in Europe. This could well change and perhaps quite soon and we will continue to monitor performance and report on any improvements.
Hajj 2019: 2.5 Million Visitors Puts a Huge Demand on MNOs
Saudi Arabia has confirmed that nearly 2.5 million pilgrims performed the major Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca this year. This puts a strain on the city’s infrastructure and we have looked at how the MNOs coped with the increased demand for Internet access and compared the results with 2018.
We compare the download and upload speeds of the STC, Mobily and Zain on cellular networks between 8th and 15th August 2019 with each other and with their performance in 2018.
For Hajj last year (2018) the King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman issued a directive “to do everything possible to make it easy for pilgrims to perform the rituals of Hajj”. The initiative’s objective was to allow pilgrims to communicate with their families and enable them to access the digital services available in the Smart Hajj initiative. This was a great success as seen in our report from last year. In this report we see that this has continued for 2019 and look forward to 2020.
Speedchecker Measurement Methodology
We analysed cellular data collected from over 50,000 speed tests taken between 8th and 15th August 2019. This data was restricted to include only data that was:
Within the city of Mecca
Cellular only (not fixed)
Provided via the top 3 MNOs operating in Mecca (STC, Mobily and Zain)
Our speed tests are designed to accurately measure the speed experienced by the user at the time of test. We further analyse the results to remove any tests that fail our quality control including where there is some anomaly in the result that makes it unreliable.
We chose to limit to cellular because this is the type of connection most likely to be used by visitors as well as local residents and therefore more likely to be impacted by the surge in demand during Hajj.
The top 3 MNOs (STC, Mobily and Zain) were chosen because they account for almost all connections in Mecca.
Speedchecker collected the data used in this report using the crowd sourced data samples collected in the field on mobile devices. During the time the data collection took place, Speedchecker received over 80,000 data samples and the included statistics and analysis are based on this dataset.
It was important for us to not only measure the real speeds as experienced by the user but also to ensure that we measured to the same points to ensure a fair comparison. For this we included only measurements to servers in Europe. Read the following section “Choice of measurement server” for more about this method.
Choice of measurement server
Every measurement methodology differs in the selection of measured server infrastructure. Some methodologies focus on on-net servers hosted in telecom premises and others focus off-net. Speedchecker believes off-net servers’ measurements are representing real user experience better than on-net as most of the content accessible by end users lies off-net. Most of the content these days is hosted on CDN networks and the best way to measure most relevant download metrics is to choose popular CDN networks. However, as we learned in our March 2019 Middle East Speed Rank report, not all ISPs and MNOs connect to CDNs directly (or peer) and that has major implications on performance.
Our analysis in March shows that 68% of results from Saudi Arabia were routed via European servers. The results in this report are therefore based on results using European servers to ensure meaningful comparisons. We found no significant difference in performance between the MNOs based on which particular EU servers were being used. It is acknowledged that MNOs that use more local servers may achieve faster results (up to 30% faster than EU servers) based on our March 2019 report, giving a potential margin of error of around 10%.
We saw last year that speeds improved not only during Hajj but also that there was a residual benefit that was sustained afterwards. We were curious to see what speeds were achieved 12 months later and found speed improvements of between 20 and 100%.
Download Speed Improvement
From over 50,000 results we see that there has been an incredible increase in average download speeds of over 70%. Mobily were by far the most improved with their average speed more than double that of Hajj 2018. This gives them an overall average download 1.2 Mbps faster than STC and nearly double that of Zain. Zain should be given credit for a nearly 50% improvement which, in normal circumstances, would have been more noteworthy.
2019 Results for Mobily, STC and Zain
Comparing download and upload speeds across the top 3 MNOs Mobily are faster for downloads and STC are faster for uploads. Zain compares better for upload speeds than it does for downloads.
There is good news for all customers with all three MNOs out-performing their 2018 results. Clearly Mobily have excelled and I suspect this has been helped by their partnership with Ericsson that started in 2018:
Eng. Ahmed Aboudoma, Mobily Chief Executive Officer, Mobily, says: “This agreement with Ericsson is in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 and its objectives that fall within developing the Telecom and IT sector, in addition to preparing best-provided services to customers that comply with its new strategy ‘RISE.’ This includes a concept that raises the level of provided services to customers by using the latest telecom technologies.” [source: Ericsson]
Mobily have also teamed up with Huawei to upgrade its infrastructure towards 5G. This may not have had time to account for the improvement we have seen in 2019 but should help to deliver more improvement in 2020. STC are also upgrading to 5G with help from Nokia as well as Huawei [source: RCR Wireless ].
Once again, Mecca excels at delivering excellent communications as it copes with the huge demand of Hajj.
SpeedChecker analysed 300,000 speed test results to produce a Wi-Fi performance ranking of CPE (routers) around the World. Our results show that the choice of router has an important impact on the perceived speed of the Internet even for users of the fastest devices and the with the strongest signals.
In this white paper we explain how our methodology eliminates other causes of slow speeds and presents a ranking table of routers for the top 20 manufactures. We also show the cost of the routers to identify the routers that offer the best value for money. The conclusion of our study show that there are some clear differences between manufacturers and between the models that each provide.
The purpose of this white paper is to rank Customer Premises Equipment (routers) in order of Wi-Fi throughput, to help consumers and providers to diagnose slow internet connections. There is often disagreement between the consumer and the provider regarding where the fault lies for slower than expected Internet connections. There are many causes for a slow internet and this white paper explores the impact of the CPE (router) on the final speed perceived by the consumer.
In this section we explain the methodology used to ensure that we are able to confidently rank routers to identify the fast and slow routers. This will help to diagnose poor speeds because the data will allow the consumer or provider to know what to expect from the routers being used. The methodology is designed to allow for a fair comparison between routers.
This white paper is based on 300,000 speed results collected between 1st April and 10th June 2019.
We analysed these 300K results and filtered them to eliminate other factors that could be reducing the speed of the CPE. We eliminated any speed tests that failed our rigorous accuracy check, any tests that used devices not capable of the fastest speeds and any tests that had a poor signal quality. We also disregarded very strong signals that may not have been representative of the average user. Finally, we disregarded any model of testing device or router that had a small data sample. From the 300K we found 46K that met our criteria.
Because of the filtering, we have reduced the CPE models to the most popular ones used by the users. A more comprehensive study ranking a wider set of CPE models will be published in the future.
Our data set includes results from over 100 countries however the vast majority of results are from France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
During the time that SpeedChecker collected results there were over 600 different client device models used (mobile phones & tablets). To ensure that the devices themselves were not the cause of a slow connection we removed results from slow devices, those with insufficient results and those that were not using the 2.4 GHz band.
We removed devices that had a maximum link speed of less than 100 Mb/s and an average throughput of less than 30 Mb/s.
There were 75 devices that met our criteria to be included in the analysis of the CPEs (routers). These are all Android devices because data from iOS devices was not available for this study. SpeedChecker plan to include iOS devices in future studies.
The most popular fast devices in order of results per device:
Samsung are clearly the most popular device but how do they compare in terms of throughput? The following table shows the average throughput in Mb/s for the top devices. Samsung have 5 of the top 10 but the fastest in our sample was the LGE V30.
There were over 400 routers in our sample of 300,000. After eliminating the results from the devices as previously described there still remained over 360. However, for many of these routers there were too few samples to be statistically sound. Removing these left 78 routers that we could analyse with confidence.
The Wi-Fi Throughput Test shows the average maximum measured transfer speed between the device and the CPE (router) using the UDP protocol. Wi-Fi throughput will normally be higher than or equal to the Internet speed.
Internet Download Test
The Internet Download Test is the actual Internet speed experienced on the device during the SpeedChecker speed test using TCP protocol. Our test uses sophisticated procedures to ensure that the result is as accurate as possible.
How SpeedChecker calculate a slow Wi-Fi connection
In order to determine if a particular result shows that the CPE (router) was responsible for a slow internet experience, SpeedChecker compared the measured Wi-Fi throughput with the Internet Speed test. SpeedChecker looked at the Internet Speed as a % of the Wi-Fi Throughput. Any result that shows an Internet speed greater than 80% of the Wi-Fi Throughput speed indicates a slow CPE (router).
The following table assumes that a customer is being provided with a 100 Mb/s Internet connection and compares how a slow CPE impacts on the speed they actually experience. If the throughput is slower than the Internet being provided to the premises then the actual speed being experienced is limited to that throughput speed.
In the worst case we see that, although there is 100 Mb/s coming into the premises, the Wi-Fi throughput of the CPE is only 50 Mb/s. A better throughput of 150 Mb/s gives the customer the full 100 Mb/s that is being provided with a ratio of 67%. For our analysis we consider any speed test result that has a throughput speed between 80-100% of the measured Internet speed to be slow. In our ranking tables we include the % of slow results for comparison.
Drawbacks of our methodology:
Our results rely on the CPE (router) having UPnP enabled on the router. Although many routers have it turned on by default there are still a significant number of popular routers that will not appear in our list because UPnP is disabled by default on them. Some users may enable it on these but if there are not enough results to be statistically significant they will not appear in our tables.
Our methodology mitigates against the impact of the wifi setup such as poor Wi-Fi signal and slow/old devices by only including results with strong signals and those results from devices capable of faster speeds. We also mitigate against local impacts on the results during the test itself by eliminating poor results.
The steps that we have taken to ensure accurate ranking of CPEs means that the 300K raw results have been reduced to 50K high quality results to ensure a fair comparison.
How SpeedChecker Filter the Data to Produce Meaningful Results
The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of the speed results to show the best routers in terms of Wi-Fi Throughput. This will allow comparison of routers (CPEs) and help to identify if the router is causing a poor internet performance.
It was important for us to ensure that we only used speed results that provide information that was reliable, significant and relevant to most users. To do this we filtered our results based on :
Number of results per router and device
SpeedChecker take great care to ensure that any speed test result that we use is reliable and accurate. The results that are eliminated include incomplete tests, tests with too few samples and tests that take too long to complete. This can be caused by local interference such as the user moving during the test, the user cancelling before completion and interference during the test by other devices or other apps.
Because we are interested in the performance of the CPE we have included only phones and devices that are capable of the faster speeds. Otherwise, it would not be clear if it was the router or the device that was causing the slowness.
We used the top 75 devices from over 600 devices in the raw data. These all had maximum link speeds of at least 100 Mb/s and we had sufficient results from each device to be statistically significant. To qualify for this list a device was also required to have a minimum of 250 results.
The average Wi-Fi Throughput for these devices ranged from 30 to over 100 Mb/s.
We list the most popular routers based on the number of data samples for each router and their popularity in Europe. It should be noted that some of these routers are offered as ISP brands. A router needs to have sufficient results to allow for statistically sound analysis.
A weak Wi-Fi signal will also produce slow results and would cause a router to be mis-reported as being slow. We looked at the number of results in each band of signal strength and, as seen in the chart, we saw that most of them were between -40 and -70 dBm. We filtered out any results worse than -70 dBm. We also filtered out strong signals (above -40dBm) to ensure that our analysis focuses on the more challenging wireless conditions where users typically struggle with wi-fi, and ideal conditions where most of the CPEs are working well.
Wi-Fi Type (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz)
Our analysis restricts results to those using the 2.4 GHz band to make the comparison equal across all routers. We chose 2.4 Ghz because our results show that there are twice as many users of 2.4 GHz than 5 GHz meaning that most users will be using the 2.4 GHz band. We also see that there are 50% more slow results for 2.4 GHz compared to 5 GHz.
Number of results per router and device
Another filter that we apply to our results is to ensure a minimum number of results per device and per router. The restriction on the device (phone / tablet) was used in identifying the devices to be used to filter the CPE (router) results. These results were then further reduced if a router had insufficient measurements from these faster devices.
CPE Manufacturer Ranking
For the top 20 manufacturers the following table ranks the best CPE from each manufacturer in order of average Wi-Fi Throughput. We also give the average Internet Download speeds as measured by our speed test. The Slow % indicates the % of results for that router that were defined as slow by the metric discussed previously. We provide the cost where available to allow for a Value For Money comparison.
We provide further tables that include their other top-performing equipment in the section that follows.
Ranking table of best models for each CPE manufacturer
Prices are given for CPEs that were available to buy at the time of writing and are in USD.
The Internet speed as measured by our Speed Test is provided to give an indication of the speeds expected by the consumer with most speeds between 20 and 50 Mb/s. A couple are much lower than that, particularly TP-Link Archer_C5. This should not be interpreted as a fault of the router especially in this instance where the slow % is only 2%. i.e. the router is not the cause of the slow internet speed. Most likely the slow internet speeds are linked to the actual router being popular in countries / ISPs which offer internet packages with low speeds.
Vendor-specific CPE Ranking Tables
The previous table ranks all manufacturers by their best-performing CPE (routers). In the following tables we take the top 10 manufacturers and include the overall ranking position.
There are no tables for Compal Broadband or Sercomm because they each have only one CPE in our results.
Arris CPE Ranking
AVM Berlin CPE Ranking
BT CPE Ranking
LinkSys CPE Ranking
Netgear CPE Ranking
Sagemcom CPE Ranking
TP-Link CPE Ranking
ZyXel CPE Ranking
The results of our study show that there are some clear differences between manufacturers and between the models that each provide. Most manufacturers provide one or two routers that are significantly better than the rest, reflecting improvement in technology. For example, BT is releasing new versions of its models and we can see clearly from our data the wi-fi throughput increases with every version and showing it is worthwhile upgrading.
Although more connections are being made using the 5 GHz band than previous years, 2.4 GHz connections are still used twice as often. It is interesting to see that the percentage of slow connections using 2.4 GHz (20%) is 50% larger than for 5 GHz (13%). We conclude that most customers suffering with slow connections are still using 2.4 GHz and that is why we concentrated on this band. The reasons for this include the CPE (router) not having a 5 GHz band, the user not switching to 5 GHz either because of lack of knowledge or because they get better results on 2.4 GHz (because of distance, walls etc).
Routers from BT, Sercomm, Zyxel and Linksys topped the ranking in terms of Wi-Fi throughput, each being 10% faster than their rivals. The Linksys EA7500 and ZyXel EMG2926 were particularly impressive because their slow % was 1% and 6% respectively. Sercomm’s top router (the Livebox) had a faster throughput but a disappointing 19% slow %. If reliable performance is important then choose the Zyxel or Linksys router but if value for money is important then choose BT Home Hub 6 or Sercomm Livebox, each costing less than half of the others. The AVM Berlin Fritz!Box 7490 at $270 does not offer the best VFM, however, their second router (7430) at $110 is a better buy.
Only one manufacturer in the top 10 had a slow % below the average: the Arris TG2492LG-85 at a disappointing 40%. With a throughput of 87 Mb/s it performed well but if reliability is important then choosing their second fastest (TG862G) gives a respectable 73 Mb/s but only 4 % slow %.
Most manufacturers have some routers that have a wide range of slow %. BT is unusual in that the 6 routers in their table range between 13% and 20% with the throughput correlating with the slow % i.e. the faster the throughput the small the slow %. Netgear in contrast has a flagship router (WNDR4500v2) with great throughput and negligible slowness but 6 others that perform poorly in contrast. Linksys have two great routers and two not so great.
In this analysis of speed test results taken in countries in the Middle East during February 2019 we compare download speeds between countries, between MNOs & ISPs within each country and also compare how performance varies across different subsidiaries of the major Telecom Groups.
Middle East average download speed: 7.3 Mb/s
Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan have above average download speeds
Egypt and Kuwait have the slowest download speeds
Vodafone in Qatar, Orange in Jordan and Vodafone Turkey are the fastest amongst MNOs & ISPs with download speeds over 10 Mb/s
Inconsistent CDN peering impacts user experience
Regional average download speed is 7.3 Mb/s.
Turkey (10.7 Mb/s), Qatar (9.0 Mb/s), Bahrain (8.4 Mb/s) and Jordan (8.1 Mb/s) top the chart with above Middle East average download speeds. Egypt (4.4 Mb/s) and Kuwait (5.7 Mb/s) have the poorest performance in our tests. These speeds are represented in the following chart.
How Telecom Groups Perform in Different Countries
There are a number of international MNOs & ISPs that offer services in more than one Middle East country:
Bahrain and Jordan
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates
Egypt and Jordan
Kuwait, Oman and Qatar
Egypt and Jordan
STC / Viva
Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
Egypt, Qatar and Turkey
Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
Our next chart superimposes the average speed for each country with the speeds for each Telecom Group so that we can see which Groups produce above or below average in each country that they operate in. Each country is given a unique colour in the following chart to allow a visual comparison of speeds for different Telecom Groups in each country.
Most Telecom Groups outperform the average in each country with the following exceptions:
Batelco in Jordan
Link.net in Jordan and Egypt
Ooredoo in Qatar
Vodafone in Turkey
Zain in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait
Top MNOs & ISPs in each Country
In this section we look at how the most popular MNOs & ISPs perform in each country. The charts are in order of the fastest available download speeds with a consistent scale of up to 16 Mb/s to make comparison easier.
SpeedChecker Measurement Methodology
SpeedChecker collected data in all countries during the same period in February 2019 to ensure a fair comparison. We gathered many data points using the crowd sourced data samples collected in the field on mobile devices. During the time the data collection took place, SpeedChecker received over 60,000 data samples and the included statistics and analysis are based on this dataset.
It was important for us to not only measure the real speeds as experienced by the user but also to ensure that we measured to the same point to ensure a fair comparison. For this we included only measurements to one server in Amsterdam. Read the following section “Choice of measurement server” for more about this method.
Choice of measurement server
Every measurement methodology differs in the selection of measured server infrastructure. Some methodologies focus on on-net servers hosted in telecom premises and others focus off-net. SpeedChecker believes off-net servers’ measurements are representing real user experience better than on-net as most of the content accessible by end users lies off-net. Most of the content these days is hosted on CDN networks and the best way to measure most relevant download metrics is to choose popular CDN networks. However, as we learn in this report, not all ISPs and MNOs connect to CDNs directly (or peer) and that has major implications on performance.
One of the main advantages of CDN peering is to improve connection time and download speeds by bringing the content closer to the end user. Before we could analyse the speed results, we considered how widespread peering was and discovered that there was a variation between 0 and 100% use of local servers.
The chart above shows the percentage of results from each country that are routed via local Middle East Servers, Europe or Asia. Bahrain, Qatar and Oman are all above 50% Middle East server use with Bahrain at 100%. United Arab Emirates and Egypt have a very low use of local servers. In our case we have used the most popular CDN – Cloudflare.
Speeds achieved to local servers were, on average, around 30% faster than speeds routed via European servers but this is not available to the majority of users. Because of the unbalanced availability of this CDN peering we chose to limit our analysis to results from one particular server based in Amsterdam, Europe.
No country will have an unfair advantage as would be the case if local servers were used
The majority of content is still hosted in Europe which means the download speeds reflect actual usage for most of the content downloaded by the end user
It is acknowledged that the operators in some countries that are peering with CDNs will achieve better results than those shown in this report.
This is a report on the state of Fibre and 4G deployment in Riyadh based on data points collected by Speedchecker in September 2018. The report discusses the state of Fibre and Mobile coverage (the extent of coverage and the quality of service) and the Speedchecker Measurement Method. The conclusion shows how Riyadh is placed to take advantage of future improvements to networks.
Current Network Coverage in Riyadh
Summary of Network Coverage
The three main Internet providers in Riyadh are STC, Mobily and Zain. Only STC provide services over 4G, Fibre AND Copper. Mobily offer 4G and Fibre and Zain provide 4G but not Fibre or Copper. Riyadh has excellent 4G coverage and Fibre is well established in the centre of the city and plans are well underway to extend the coverage to the main city areas. Fibre beyond the main city areas is planned but not currently in progress.
Fibre is widely available across Riyadh particularly in and close to the centre. The map shown below shows that coverage is poor in the South-West of the city and in the rural areas surrounding the city.
Fibre is provided by STC and Mobily with Mobily exclusively covering the South-West and ITC the North-East. Other existing areas are covered jointly by STC and Mobily.
The In Progress areas (yellow on the map) are either STC or ITC with some coverage being provided by Dawiyat.
Zain has no fibre coverage in Riyadh as at October 2018.
Riyadh has excellent 4G coverage with 4G being available in all urban districts and along the length of the main roads going into and out of the city.
Speedchecker Measurement Method
Speedchecker uses the billions of data points collected through its passive and active measurement technologies worldwide to provide insights to our customers. This is used by businesses to improve their service and by research establishments to provide invaluable information.
Each data point consists of many KPIs including speed, latency, location, connection type, device info. Our results focus on speed and latency as experienced on the device to provide insightful information on Quality of Service. More detail about the Speedchecker Measurement Method.
This data is then integrated into our customizable map-based dashboards for geospatial analysis.
STC Fibre Coverage
Riyadh has an ongoing plan to implement fibre broadband across the city. Our results clearly show a correlation between the speeds achieved in districts that have fibre and those that do not.
We analysed the fibre results from STC to see if they correlated with the rollout of fibre across Riyadh. Our results on the left show high-speed results in Red / dark orange and slower results in yellow / light orange. These can be compared with the green areas from the MICT rollout plan where fibre is already available and the yellow areas where it is in process. The blue areas show areas that are planned but not yet in process and it is in these areas that the speeds are low.
We are still analysing the results from Mobily fibre and will publish when the analysis is complete.
State of Riyadh Mobile Networks
Speed result data points collected from Riyadh in September 2018 were analysed and allowed the top 3 mobile providers to be compared.
By adding the download speed data to our districts map of Riyadh we can clearly see that STC provided the fastest download speeds followed by Mobily and finally Zain. The maps also show a consistent difference in speeds from district to district. Districts that are the fastest or slowest for one provider tend to be the fastest or slowest for the others even though their actual speeds may vary.
The following table illustrates the fastest and slowest districts in Riyadh based on the average mobile download speeds. The speeds highlighted in green represent the 5 fastest speeds by provider and the red speeds are the 5 slowest by provider. It is clear from this table and the maps above that STC are getting the fastest mobile speed test results and Zain the slowest.
Riyadh has excellent 4G coverage provided by STC, Mobily, Zain and other mobile operators. The MCIT (Ministry of Communications and Information Technology) plan for rolling out fibre across Riyadh is well-established and their progress map is accurate.
All 3 companies are providing a good service with STC having more coverage and faster speeds. Our report has highlighted some areas of Riyadh that could need some improvement in service and others that are doing very well. This may inform future plans for infrastructure changes.
This is a good foundation that should ensure Riyadh will be well-placed to continue to take advantage of improvements in technology such as 5G. This will ensure that businesses and residential users can continue to enjoy all the benefits that these advances bring.
Interested in more detailed information on the Internet quality and coverage in Middle East and beyond?
Between 19th and 24th August 2018 over 2 million visitors arrived in Mecca for Hajj. This annual pilgrimage to the holiest city for Muslims is associated with the Prophet Mohammed who is said to have lead his followers there before consecrating it to Allah. It is considered a religious duty for all adult worshippers who are able to undertake this pilgrimage at least once in their lives. This number of visitors more than doubles the usual 1.5 million population of Mecca causing almost unimaginable challenges to the city’s infrastructure. In this article we discuss just one of these challenges : mobile Internet speed and access. It is hard to imagine how the infrastructure could cope with the huge increase in demand.
Hajj 2017: Review
During Hajj in 2017 mobile data demand nearly doubled compared to 2016. Although an increase of 60-70% was anticipated the 100% jump was a surprise. This was attributed to the increase in popularity of YouTube and Snapchat. Despite the increased demand, 99% of calls were successful and 23,000 Terabytes of data were consumed. According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals report published in ITU News from September 2017 this was thanks to the deployment of 3700 ICT specialists and 13,000 2G, 3G and 4G mobile base stations in all Hajj cities. The report does not specify which Telcos were involved. Source: ITU News.
Hajj 2018: The Kingdom’s Initiative to Maximise Mobile Communication During Hajj
King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman issued a directive “to do everything possible to make it easy for pilgrims to perform the rituals of Hajj”. The initiative’s objective is to allow pilgrims to communicate with their families and enable them to access the digital services available in the Smart Hajj initiative, so that they can enhance their experience and allow them to take advantage of enhanced communication services, as per a release issued by the authorities.
In particular, a number of packages provided by some of the main mobile operators offered their customers 1 Gb for 48 hours. Source: https://www.tahawultech.com
The challenge of providing adequate mobile services during a large event is not simply trying to maintain the current service levels. It is also about balancing the needs of the visitors with key service areas that are essential during the event. Consideration must be given to protecting the critical infrastructure of the region to enable it to respond to serious incidents. One way this can be achieved is to ensure there is resilience and redundancy built in to the infrastructure. Consultation with interested parties is essential to ensure that the steps agreed will meet the essential needs of all concerned. A thorough risk and threat assessment will identify where the effort is required.
It is a balance between being good hosts to the visitors and ensuring a continuity of services for the locals. Short term measures and agreements will be a great help in achieving this balance and the generous provision of 1Gb over 48 hours in Mecca is one such example. This may be the headline initiative but it is clear that much more has been done in many other areas to ensure a successful Hajj.
Telco Infrastructure in Mecca
Mecca has an excellent 4G network covered by a number of major operators. Building on the improvements made for Hajj 2017 this has allowed them to improve the average download speed by 83% between 2017 and 2018. They will continue to improve as they roll out 5G and it is expected that this will be further improved as part of Saudi Vision 2030.
Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has been at the forefront of this with investment in FDD and TDD LTE spectrum assets. The rewards of this investment can be seen in our results which show STC outperform the other providers in our research.
Zain have also been investing in technologies that allow them to extract the best out of their infrastructure. They are also preparing for 5G rollout.
Mobily has partnered with Ericsson to deliver 4×4 MIMO and as with STC and Zain they are preparing a 5G rollout.
As the Telcos continue to improve installed and available capacity so the Internet speeds can be expected to increase.
Speedchecker measurement methodology
Ahead of Hajj, Speedchecker started data collection to gather as many data points in Mecca as possible before / during / after the event. The crowd sourced data samples were collected in the field using mobile phones carried by the pilgrims to Mecca. Measurements were run on mobile networks of the top providers using Android and iOS devices. The measurements were made towards local CDN PoP based in Riyadh. The recorded results are a good proxy for the internet quality users were experiencing in Mecca on their mobile devices. During the 15 days the data collection took place, Speedchecker received over 100,000 data samples and the included stats and analysis are based on this dataset.
Hajj 2018: The Results
The results show that not only did Mecca cope with the extra 2 million visitors they exceeded all expectations. It would be reasonable to expect that speeds would decline by up to 50% during Hajj when compared to the week before or the days after. However, the speed test result reveal that the steps taken in Mecca allowed visitors and locals to enjoy an increase in speed that was continued throughout the following days. Our analysis stops after the 26th August.
The chart shown below shows the median (middle value) of Mobily Mobile, Zain Mobile, STC Mobile and STC Fixed broadband. We only have STC data from 21st August (Hajj started on 19th) and we have separated the STC Mobile tests from the STC Fixed Broadband tests. There is an unexplained drop in speed for STC mobile on the 23rd August. We have included the STC Fixed Broadband to show that the problem only affected STC Mobile customers. Despite this 50% drop from STC the overall trend during Hajj was a gradual increase in download speed.
STC mobile download speeds are more than 50% faster than either Mobily or Zain and this shows that investment in infrastructure yields positive results and benefits to the end user.
The following graph compares how the average daily median speeds of each of the providers changed before, during and after Hajj. The average shows a remarkable increase throughout Hajj and into the following days. Zain’s speeds after Hajj are faster than those from before while Mobily has returned to before Hajj speeds.
Whatever improvements and changes were made to the Telco infrastructure during Mecca the results of the download speeds show that it was a huge success.
Internet speed map of Mecca
Using mobile device GPS data we were able to map internet speeds in Mecca to a high geographic precision. Collected data were normalized and color-coded so that the fastest areas are in red and slowest in dark blue. The outskirts of Mecca which are not colored are out of scope for this study.
As can be observed the fastest areas for Mobily are not in the center which can be attributed to increased demand from higher concentration of people.
The Zain speed map is slightly darker and corresponds with slightly slower internet speeds than Mobily. Yet the centre is faring quite well in comparison with Mobily.
The STC internet speed map looks comparatively much better than Mobily and Zain and proves that internet speeds are well distributed across whole of Mecca.
The internet quality around Great Mosque is better illustrated using more detailed heat map where you can see individual measurements (which are also color coded like on previous maps). The area around the mosque has very good speeds also for Zain, which indicates Zain did not underestimate the capacity needed in the center.
The 2 million pilgrims arriving in Mecca in 2018 provided a huge challenge to ensure that the quality of service that visitors and locals expect can be delivered and maintained. We have seen how the demand doubled between 2016 and 2017 and this increase was sure to continue in 2018.
The Saudi Arabia Initiative and the efforts and investments of the major mobile operators has ensured that the quality of the service has not only be sustained but improved. This improvement has continued at least for the few days after Hajj (we have no data beyond this). We don’t know how much of the improvement will be permanent but, with a similar commitment in 2019, we can be confident that Hajj will continue to be a Telco success.
Looking further forward we can see that the Saudi Vision 2030 has ambitious plans that should sustain this for the foreseeable future.
In the recent past we have seen a massive development of online streaming services, where Netflix is one of the leading brands in this new market. Netflix has built its own CDN (Netflix Open Connect) to support its worldwide expansion. This resulted in a rapid growth of bandwidth consumption from a considerable number of users, intensifying year after year together with Netflix’s popularity. Netflix has undergone a massive structural transformation in the way it delivers content. Parting from a monolithic application design with some external CDN support to building their own CDN around the world. Currently Netflix Open Connect has 233 server locations in all 6 continents. Their endpoints are primarily located among IXPs and within some ISPs as well. A model which reminds us of Google Global Cache, by installing cachés close to the last mile to deliver specific services.
ISPs have reacted differently across the globe, resulting in some heated discussions about traffic shaping, throttling and service differentiation from ISPs, which rose considerable criticism from defenders of net neutrality and consumers alike. Two years after our previous insight into this topic, we decided to find out what is happening today, if any ISPs are showing signs of throttling Netflix. We found that the situation has improved noticeably.
We setup an experiment which runs from thousands of Speedchecker probes around the world Netflix’s SpeedTest (fast.com) and right after that our own SpeedTest using Akamai endpoints. We compared the results of both tests using our SpeedTest with Akamai as reference and found out which ISPs show noticeable differences when connecting to Netflix. Due to Netflix’s high bandwith consumption and rapidly growing popularity, adapting to such changes might pose a challenge for some ISPs.
After running the experiment for 24 hours, we found that the performance differences between Fast.com and our reference endpoints in Akamai are equivalent, which fortunately tells us that the general rule seems to be not to throttle Netflix.
We can also observe that the situation still changes notably between countries, with Italy showing the worst performance among the countries where our measurements ran.
In the following table, we can see the ISPs in which we measured the top 35 highest median speeds.
After investigating ISPs in the USA only, we we able to rank their top 10 providers as follows comparing off-peak and peak traffic hours.
We couldn’t detect further major ISPs showing signs of Netflix throttling in the countries we studied. In the cases of CenturyLink, Charter Communications and possibly Time Warner Cable, we can observe a clear disadvantage of Netflix during peak hours.
In conclusion, we have seen the situation of Netflix evolve in positive terms for the consumer. We can see from our test results that the global tendency is to respect net neutrality. There are still ISPs worldwide which haven’t joined Netflix OpenConnect CDN yet and therefore they cannot profit from its traffic delivery benefits. Others simply slow down altogether during peak hours which reveals difficulties at coping with high traffic demand. So far this year, Netflix global launch seems to have gone peacefully and without any major incidents. The market has made its share of pressure to the industry, pushing them to develop high performance infrastructure for the end consumer, while clearing the path for other applications high in bandwidth consumption to enter the market with lower technical and legal barriers.