Comparative view: South Africa’s Internet speeds and prices against the World

South Africa’s internet landscape experienced significant changes in the past year, as reported in the latest Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index by Surfshark. While average internet speeds soared by 30%, reaching impressive 70Mbps for fixed and 68Mbps for mobile, the nation faced challenges in affordability. Prices surged relative to other countries, causing a drop in rankings. South Africa’s DQL Index score of 0.44 placed it 72nd globally, despite maintaining its position as the best in Africa. Despite improvements – challenges in security, infrastructure, and e-government persist – making it a complex digital landscape.

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South Africa’s Internet speeds and prices versus the world

By Hanno Labuschagne

Average Internet speeds in South Africa have increased substantially in the past year, but prices have also surged relative to other countries.

That is according to the latest Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index compiled by Surfshark.

The virtual private network (VPN) service provider compares numerous countries’ digital well-being annually by assessing 14 key indicators across five pillars of connectivity.

These are Internet Affordability, Internet Quality, Electronic Infrastructure, Electronic Security, and Electronic Government.

Its latest assessment compared these elements in 121 countries that accounted for 92% of the world’s population.

Surfshark collected data from United Nations’ open-source information, the World Bank, and other sources. 

France had the highest DQL in the 2023 assessment, with a score of 0.79 pushing it from 3rd place in 2022 to 1st. It also ranked highest for Internet Affordability.

South Africa ranked 72nd overall with an index score of 0.44, dropping by six places since last year.

However, it retained its position as the best in Africa, trumping Kenya in 76th and Nigeria in 88th place.

South Africa’s best performance was in the pricing category, placing 52nd overall.

However, this was still down substantially from 39th in 2022 and 26th in 2021.

Surfshark explained this was due to global fixed Internet being 11% more affordable and mobile Internet costing 26% less than in 2022.

In 2023, South Africans must work an average of 1 hour and 43 minutes to afford fixed broadband Internet.

“While this is less than average, it is six times more than in Romania, which has the world’s most affordable fixed Internet,” Surfshark said. 

Fortunately, it is a far cry from the country with the most expensive fixed Internet — neighbouring Zimbabwe — where people must work 72 hours and 39 minutes to afford a monthly subscription.

To afford mobile Internet, South Africans have to work for roughly 1 hour and 26 minutes, five times longer than in Luxembourg, which has the world’s most affordable mobile broadband.

Internet speeds surge

The average fixed and mobile Internet speeds in South Africa increased by 30% to reach 70Mbps and 68Mbps, respectively.

Despite the substantial speed increase, South Africa dropped one spot in the Internet quality rating category as global Internet speeds also increased.

Surfshark said the average fixed Internet speed in 2023 was 107.2Mbps. South Africa’s mobile Internet speed was a little closer to the global average of 74.8Mbps.

The country with the fastest average fixed Internet in the analysis was Singapore, with 300Mbps, while the United Arab Emirates had the highest average mobile Internet speed of 310Mbps.

The world’s slowest average fixed and mobile Internet speeds were 11Mbps in Yemen and 10Mbps in Venezuela.

Surfshark’s assessment also showed South Africa declining in the e-security, e-infrastructure, and e-government categories.

South Africa was behind Kenya in e-security, but managed to to outperform Nigeria.

“In the global context, South Africa is unprepared to fight against cybercrime, and the country doesn’t have very advanced data protection laws,” Surfshark said. 

In e-infrastructure, South Africa ranked 94th, supported by low Internet penetration and weak network readiness.

Surfshark reckoned that the government’s digital services and AI readiness were similar to the global average and the best in Africa.

For an interactive look at South Africa’s performance in the Surfshark DQL Index 2023, visit the Surfshark website.

The graph below compares South Africa’s performance across the 14 key indicators with the global average.

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This article was first published by MyBroadband and republished with permission