Broadband speeds around the world dropped during lockdown, a study has found.

Cable.co.uk analysed 364 million broadband speed tests in 114 countries in order to compare average broadband speed during and outside of lockdown periods between between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020.

Cable used the Oxford Coronavirus Government Response Tracker’s stringency index to track lockdown measures, and data from broadband speed tests carried out by M-Lab. The study only included countries that had implemented lockdown measures that were “life-limiting enough to cause behaviours, such as staying at home”.

On average, speeds dropped by 6.31% during lockdown, but this was “highly regionalised”; varying significantly for different countries.

The region that experienced the biggest drop in speed was Central America where it fell by 26.03%. Northern Africa recorded the second-highest overall drop in internet speeds.

The five countries where speeds dropped the most were China (50.97%), Panama (48.99%), Madagascar (37.71%), Chile (36.77%) and Peru (36.76%).

Speeds in Western Europe fell by an average of 4.66% during lockdown periods, with the UK experiencing a lower than average drop of 1.70%.

Speeds in Canada fell by 10.82% during its lockdown period, while the US saw a rise in speeds during its lockdown period of 3.32%.

However, two regions saw an improvement in broadband speed, which rose by 3.49% in the Carribean and 0.41% in the Baltics.

With the lockdown meaning many people have had to switch to remote working, while also relying on technology for entertainment and staying in contact with loved ones, there has been concern over whether networks will be able to withstand changes in usage. Cable pointed to the high bandwidth consumption of video streaming services as one of the “dominant culprits” for changes in speed.

Typically, broadband speeds around the world have been improving year-on-year in recent years, and so drops in speed highlight the importance of robust broadband infrastructure as well as investment in mobile broadband technologies.

Commenting on the findings, Dan Howdle, the consumer telecoms analyst in charge of the study at Cable, said:

The State of Technology This Week

“The results are startling. Although an overall drop of just -6.31% across all countries doesn’t sound like an awful lot, this figure moves very much against the tide. Our annual global broadband speed tracker has demonstrated global increases of around 20% year-on-year since 2017. For the majority of countries in this study to be moving in the opposite direction during their Covid-19 lockdowns, then, is all the more significant.

“While it is impossible to attribute direct causality, our study shows a high correlation between lockdown periods around the world and dips in measured internet speeds, with some regions of the world measuring the most substantial drops, and others more or less unchanged. The picture is an interesting one indeed, and I hope our work will be of interest to anyone who seeks to further understand the influence of stringent lockdown measures on network capacity and capability.”


Read more: Remote working is here to stay and it’s boosting productivity, study finds.