In many parts of the world, consumers are used to fixed broadband speeds that vastly outpace those on mobile. Not so in Southern Africa where the infrastructure challenges associated with improving fixed-line broadband have often made mobile a more attractive option for consumers. Today we are exploring mean and median download speeds on both mobile and fixed broadband in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa during Q2 2020 using Speedtest Intelligence®.
This article uses two measures to describe “typical” internet performance: mean and median. Mean, which people are often most familiar with, is calculated by adding all data points together and dividing by the number of data points. Median is the middle value in a series. Approximately half of the observed values are lower than the median, and half are greater. Both mean and median have advantages and disadvantages. Because median is less impacted by rare instances of values that are extremely high or low, it is more “robust” than mean at representing the data that have already been seen. Mean, on the other hand, is much more sensitive to high and low values. Because its value can change more quickly, the mean can be more informative about what values to expect in the future. Importantly, while mean and median are both informative on their own, viewing them in combination can reveal how “skewed” the data are. With Speedtest® data, this can indicate when certain customers are receiving service that is notably fast or slow among other things.
South Africa had fastest speeds on fixed broadband
Mean download speeds over fixed broadband varied greatly between Southern African countries during Q2 2020. South Africa showed the fastest mean download speeds on our list at 34.19 Mbps, followed by Lesotho at 22.50 Mbps. Botswana had the slowest mean download speed at 8.24 Mbps, 75.3% slower than South Africa.
The differences between countries are much smaller when comparing median speeds, indicating that a smaller number of faster connections is bringing up the mean. This effect was least obvious in Botswana. Median speeds on fixed broadband ranged from a high of 17.28 Mbps in South Africa to a low of 3.49 Mbps in Eswatini. Lesotho followed South Africa closely with 13.18 Mbps, while Botswana almost tied with Eswatini at the bottom of the list at 3.60 Mbps. This leaves Eswatini with a very large skew between mean and median download speed, showing that there is a large difference between the speeds consumers experience. The smaller gap between median and mean speeds in South Africa shows that customers are more likely overall to have faster service.
South Africa had fastest mean download speeds on mobile
The disparity in mean download speed on mobile was less severe during Q2 2020 than we saw on fixed broadband, ranging from 31.11 Mbps in South Africa to 14.93 Mbps in Namibia. Namibia’s mean download speed on mobile broadband was 52.0% slower than South Africa’s. South Africa is also the only country on this list with commercially available 5G, according to the Ookla 5G Map™. 5G will have a much larger impact on mean speeds than on median.
Median download speeds on mobile broadband compared much more closely with mean download speeds than we saw when we were looking at fixed broadband. This indicates that more consumers are experiencing similar speeds without the top-tier outliers we saw on fixed broadband. Lesotho had the fastest median download speed on mobile at 22.75 Mbps and was followed closely by South Africa at 19.82 Mbps. Namibia and Botswana had the slowest median download speeds on mobile at 10.52 Mbps and 10.22 Mbps, respectively.
Mean and median mobile download speeds were closest to equal in Lesotho, indicating their mobile service is uniformly strong across the country and consumers experience relatively similar speeds. Lesotho’s smaller footprint is advantageous to mobile operators because there is less area to cover with mobile service, but the mountainous nature of the country often provides an infrastructure challenge that operators appear to have risen to.
Median download speeds on mobile were faster than on fixed broadband throughout Southern Africa
In Q2 2020, there was a considerable difference in median download speeds between mobile and fixed broadband in all Southern African countries. Most notably, Eswatini’s median download speed on mobile was 352.7% faster than its median download speed on fixed broadband. With the exception of South Africa, all countries in Southern Africa also showed higher mean download speeds on mobile than those on fixed.
Lesotho led 4G Availability in Southern Africa
We used data from Speedtest coverage scans on Android to compare 4G Availability across Southern Africa during Q2 2020. 4G Availability ranged between a high of 93.7% in Lesotho and a low of 57.3% in Namibia.
We look forward to seeing if fixed broadband speeds improve across Southern Africa in the near future or if Southern Africa is showing a path for continued mobile dominance. To read more about internet performance in other markets.