Mobile networks in South Africa offer the fastest internet speeds across the continent, according to the Global State of Mobile Networks report from Open Signal which breaks down performance of mobile networks in 87 countries, based on overall speeds.
For clarity, the report defines overall speed “as the average mobile data connection a user experiences based on both the speeds and availability of a country’s 3G and 4G networks.” Globally, South Korea leads with typical mobile data download connection of 37.5 megabits per second (Mbps). But that may be a tall order in Africa, as the fastest mobile connections on the continent were pegged at just below 10 Mbps.
Open Signal’s report also tracks the amount of time users spend on WiFi and, in 38 of the countries analyzed, it found smartphone users spent more time connected to WiFi than to mobile networks. But the report also states that time spent accessing the internet via WiFi, does not reflect on the quality of mobile connections. The Netherlands, for instance, despite featuring in the top 10 countries for mobile internet speeds still had the most users (68.5%) connected via a WiFi access point.
In developing countries though, the dynamic is different as the report found that a lower percentage of users accessed the internet via WiFi, not necessarily because mobile networks offer faster connections but likely because of “less robust broadband infrastructure.”
While internet speeds are one thing, the cost of internet access is another. As Quartz has previously reported, geographical location play a major role in determining internet prices on the continent. With coastal areas benefiting from better connections thanks to undersea fiber cables, prices for residential broadband services range from $3,000 in landlocked Chad to $7 in Ghana, off the Atlantic coast.
South African mobile networks have been the target of a social media campaign #datamustfall to lower the prices for the internet access.