Slower internet speeds reported by many Egyptians during the coronavirus crisis is the result of both increased pressure on the local network as well as heavy traffic on websites around the world, Minister of Communications Amr Talaat said.
Many Egyptians, confined at home by the coronavirus outbreak, are using the internet to work from home and tens of thousands of students have switched to e-learning.
“The slowing speed is partially due to the increased load on the local network… and from websites being accessed by people in countries around the world who are in home isolation,” the minister said in comments to state TV on Tuesday.
“These websites themselves are experiencing unprecedented pressure and are thus facing technical difficulties causing the slowdown,” he added. “The matter is not necessarily linked to the local network.”
Last year, Egypt increased the bandwidth of its local network six-fold as part of a major national project to improve high-speed broadband networks to raise internet speeds in the country. The ministry has managed to boost the internet speed from 5 mbps to 30 mbps at a total cost of EGP 30 billion.
The project has proven key to helping the network withstand the current pressure, the minister said.
The peak time for using the internet locally is from 5 pm till 5 am, the minister said in separate comments.
The state-owned landline operator Telecom Egypt, which is the country’s largest internet provider, has also confirmed a significant increase in local internet use in recent weeks.
"If it were not for the upgrades achieved in the infrastructure, the network would have experienced crises and breakdown,” Telecom Egypt vice president Mohamed Abu Taeb said in comments in a televised interview on Monday.
According to SpeedTest website, Egypt ranked 99th globally in the average global internet speed for fixed lines and the 108th for mobile, among 176 countries, in February.
Egypt, which has registered 710 coronavirus cases and 46 fatalities, announced on 24 March a curfew from 7 pm to 6 am for two weeks as part of stricter measures to limit the spread of the virus. It has also suspended classes at schools and universities, urging students to shift to e-learning amid the crisis.
Earlier this month, the communication ministry said it would support online education by allowing free-of-charge surfing of all education platforms.
In an attempt to encourage people to stay at home and use the internet during curfew hours, it also increased data limits for internet packages by 20 percent. The ministry also offered customers 30 times the charged balance as free minutes or units while using e-payment options to encourage citizens to use digital payment methods and avoid paying in cash to minimize viral transmission through banknotes.
Calling the health ministry’s hotlines is also offered be free of charge.