Sudan posts big growth in broadband internet use; Kenya still fastest

A group of young people attend a computer workshop at a youth centre in Kasala, Sudan (UNICEF Sudan/Noorani)

A new report by tech giant Akamai says that more users are adopting 4 Mpbs broadband Internet in Sudan over the last year, up 13 times the level of the previous year.

Akamai, which operates a network of servers around the world handling about 15-30% of global web traffic, has access to so much data that it is able to release a quarterly ‘State of the Internet’ report that points to trends in internet usage and speeds around the world.

Its first quarter report for 2017 says that 4 Mbps broadband adoption levels in Sudan increased year-over-year by 1,298%, a rate that the company called ‘remarkable.’ The statistic means that more Sudanese web users are now browsing over faster connections.

But Sudan is still far behind the global average, in spite of its “robust” growth in the broadband category over the past year. As measured during the first quarter of 2017, broadband adoption globally was at 82% (i.e., the global percentage of unique IPv4 addresses connecting to Akamai at average speeds above 4 Mbps), whereas in Sudan it stood at only 13%. This means that most Sudanese still must use the internet over relatively slow connections.

Akamai commented, “Although broadband adoption lags the world in many parts of the (Middle East and Africa) region, some first-quarter announcements show promise of progress.” Besides the growth in Sudan, Akamai cited plans by Facebook to lay 500 miles of fiber optic cable in Uganda by year end, with the goal of providing Internet access to more than 3 million people.

Not everybody in Sudan is necessarily benefitting from the growth of broadband Internet. Some mobile users suffered in early 2016 when telecom operator Zain, which has the largest market share, canceled its daily unlimited internet bundle services and instead increased prices on select data bundles by up to 300 percent.

There are four licensed telecommunications operators in Sudan: Zain, MTN, Sudatel, and Canar. All are fully owned by foreign companies with the exception of Sudatel, in which the government owns a 22 percent share. Two providers, MTN and Sudatel, offer broadband internet, while Canar offers fixed phone lines and home internet.

Internet penetration in Sudan compared to several other African states (data via International Telecommunication Union, ITU)

In the meantime, Africa’s fastest Internet is still found in Kenya, according to Akamai’s report. Kenya’s average connection speeds are at 12.2 Mps, making it faster than its closest African rivals, South Africa and Nigeria, but slower than Middle East regional powers Qatar and Israel.

Connection speeds in Kenya during the first quarter of this year were 67% faster than the same quarter a year ago, indicating growth that continues to outpace rivals. Kenya also posted the highest average mobile connection speed in Africa, with a Q1 2017 average at 13.7 Mbps.

Akamai’s data trove stems in large part from serving companies that attract massive amounts of online traffic, including Apple, Facebook, Bing, Valve, Twitter, eBay, Google, and LinkedIn. Akamai rents capacity on its servers to customers like these who want their websites to work faster by distributing content from locations close to the user. When a user navigates to the URL of an Akamai customer, their browser is redirected to one of Akamai’s copies of the website.


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