A decade of change

In 2012, the average of the countries examined was a median consumer download speed of 6.43 Mbps. In 2023, just over a decade later, this figure has increased to 167.57 Mbps, an increase of 2506.06%. If we assume the same level of growth and ignoring factors such as 5G, Starlink and Project Kuiper, this means we can expect to be working with a median home download speed of >4Gbps in the early 2030's. At those speeds, it would take around half an hour to download 1TB of data, or just 10-minutes to download an entire full-lenght 8K movie.

Accessibility and Coverage Challenges

As shown by worldbank.org data (link), around 63% of the world population has access to the internet. Taking China as an example, that figure lies around 76% with strong contrasts between rural and urban areas. In the US, the overall figure of internet users is well above the 90% mark. There is a clear relationship between income levels and internet accessibility, and the higher costs of infrastructure development in remote areas further increases the difficulty of enabling internet access globally. We should also consider the role of the private sector, offering internet access is driven largely by privately-owned ISP who will naturally place profit over social responsibility. There is hope that low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite solutions will help overcome this barrier in the next decade, keep reading as we will be covering this in a few minutes.

Chile's Leap

Chile is impressive from both the median download speed perspective as well as the % of population connected to the internet perspective with over 90% of the population having access to the internet. There are a few factors that have lead to this outcome, the primary factors are likely the fact that roughly 85% of the population of Chile lives in urban areas (source), and competition between multiple private-owned ISPs (source). Foreign investments into Chile are also strong and increasing in a similar trend as Chile's internet speeds () in the period of 2017-2023. Personally, I am surprised that while Uruguay is South America's leader in income per capita along with 10% more of the population living in urban areas than Chile (Uruguay being at 95.69%), Uruguay are not leading in broadband speeds.

Singapore's Broadband Model

Why is singapore leading the global charts? Are the reasons comparable to Chile? Singapore is arguably 100% an urban area (source). The fact that the country is a small country (Singapore is less than half the size of London) and has a strong economy is the primary reason for Singapore (and Monaco) to be top performers in both internet coverage and average speeds. You may have noticed that Monaco is missing from my chart, this is because I was not able to get reliable data on speeds in Monaco prior to 2017.

What is Driving Broadband Growth

The journey from 2012's 6.43 Mbps to the staggering 167.57 Mbps in 2023 underscores a revolution in broadband technology. The advances in recent years were driven by widespread deployment of fiber optics and to some degree by the advent of 5G technology. Fiber optics has been the backbone of the surge, providing an infrastructure capable of handling large amounts of data at speeds that seemed nearly impossible a decade ago. This remarkable growth can also be attributed to several key factors:

The synergy of these factors, coupled with humanity's endless push for technological advancement, promises to propel broadband speeds into even more breathtaking realms in years ahead. As we look towards the future, the continuous evolution of broadband technology, fueled by both demand and innovation, suggests that the limits of today will be the benchmarks of tomorrow.

The Impact of Starlink, Project Kuiper, and 5G on Tomorrow's Internet

As mentioned earlier in the article, in the next decade we will likely see impact from low earth orbit sattelites (LEO). Personally, I am worried that this space will be dominated by seemingly two companies (SpaceX and Amazon) as we have clearly seen that in leading countries like Chile and Singapore, competitiveness between ISPs is one of the best factors for the progress we have seen. You could of course think that other companies will simply enter the space, but there are serious drawbacks to having more and more satellite deployments. Starlink and Project Kuiper's LEO deployments already raise concerns about increased risks of collisions, potential interference with scientific missions, dangers associated with satellites re-entering Earth's atmosphere, and escalating issues of space debris.

At the time of writing this article, a starlink hardware kit is available for purchase at $120/mo and an upfront cost for the hardware of $599. I believe this cost was previously $2500 for the hardware and $250/mo. This means that it is certainly not attractive for the average consumer. Hopefully this cost will go down in the coming years. Amazon's Kuiper is likely to be available later in 2024, and I am not yet able to find data on pricing. Starlink currently reports that customers can expect to receive download speeds between 25 and 220 Mbps (source) which, by my personal speculation, means that these solutions are unlikely to make an impact on global internet speeds or availability. Hopefully this will change within the next decade. More realistically, 5G technology is already driving average speeds and will continue to bring more positive changes to broadband availability and speeds as countries continue to work on making 5G more available through updates on current infrastructure.

Case Studies of Broadband Transformation

It can be concluded that broadband adoption positively impacts the economy. For anyone looking for a deep dive into this exact topic, I would recommend the paper "The economic impact of broadband: evidence from OECD countries" by Pantelis Koutroumpis (source). The study found that boadband technology increases GDP by an average of 0.38% annually for OECD countries, with higher quality infrastructure leading to greater economic output. Additional papers support the conclusion that 5G will continue to improve the global economy, for example this paper on the 5G economy by Karen Campbell, Jim Diffley, Bob Flanagan, Bill Morelli, Brandan O'Neill and Fancis Sideco.


Besides the sources quoted throughout the article, data is taken from Ookla's speedtest.net (link) aswell as knoema (link) for historical data covering 2010 to 2015. Since speedtest.net is not currently offering data >12months ago on their main page, I've used the internet time machine to grab historical data. Also note that in 2021, speedtest changed their default global index to be based on the median rather than the mean. I've used the median figures exclusively throughout all datapoints/years. While the FCC arguably has reliable data on US figures, I did not use them as a source considering they do not provide data outside of north-america (as far as I could locate).