Egypt seeking speedier connections

Shaimaa Shalabi , Sunday 13 Jan 2019

The speed of the Internet in Egypt is not yet satisfactory, but not government efforts may soon provide a solution

Internet in Egypt
File Photo: Egyptians log on to the Internet at a community center in front of a mosque in Cairo, Egypt (AP)

Egypt ranks towards the bottom of a list of countries for Internet connection quality and speed, according to tests carried out by Speedtest, Akamai Technologies and OpenSignal, the three top agencies measuring Internet quality, with some results showing Internet speeds in Egypt to be slowing down.

This is in spite of increases in the number of Internet subscribers and the launch of infrastructure projects to raise Internet quality. The results come at a time when the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has announced its readiness to provide 5G Internet services in the country.

In a report published in 2018, Speedtest stated that Egypt’s infrastructure had suffered from a lack of investment following the 25 January Revolution.

It started seeing improvements in the third quarter of 2016, but Egypt still ranks 146 out of 150 countries for fixed broadband download speeds and 95th for mobile Internet, Speedtest said.

In the North Africa region, Egypt’s fixed broadband was faster only than that in Libya, and its mobile Internet speed was faster than that of Algeria and Sudan.

The average speed of Egypt’s fixed broadband for downloads was 4.02 megabytes per second (MBps) in the first quarter of 2017, slower than its average mobile download speed of 7.75 MBps.

Speedtest reported that in November 2017 Egypt’s Internet speeds had increased to reach 9.07 MBps after it measured those offered by commonly used Internet service-providers such as WE, Nile Online, Vodafone Egypt, Orange, Link and Telecom Egypt.

According to November 2018 figures, for digital subscriber lines (DSL) Egypt ranked 121 out of the 126 countries mentioned. Among the Arab countries, Egypt came in 12th from the 16 countries looked at. Worldwide, Iraq ranked 88th and Syria 115th..

For mobile Internet speeds on an international scale, Egypt ranked 89th out of 123 countries, placing the country 11th on the list of Arab states.

“The speed of the mobile Internet is slow in Egypt, but not as slow as fixed broadband. The fact that Egypt provided 4G services last year contributed to increasing the speed of the mobile Internet,” said a source at Telecom Egypt.

Etisalat, a telecommunications company, is the fastest provider of fixed broadband download speeds, averaging 8.74 MBps, according to last year’s statistics.

The upload speeds of Etisalat, Vodafone and Orange are almost the same, with Etisalat at 3.65 MBps and Vodafone at 3.63 MBps, followed by Orange.

US content delivery network and cloud service-provider Akamai Technologies serves up to 30 per cent of all web traffic. In its report measuring mobile Internet speeds in 62 countries, Egypt ranked 22nd, with an average of 12.2 MBps.

The fastest speeds in the world, according to Akamai, are in the UK, providing mobile Internet speeds of 26 MBps.

OpenSignal dedicated part of its report to countries making available 4G services, such as South Korea and Japan that came in first among countries providing the fastest 4G Internet.

The US ranked fifth and Kuwait eighth and the first among the Arab countries, with an average speed of 88.4 MBps, followed by Qatar, rated 18th internationally, with 84.4.

Egypt ranked second to last among the Arab countries and 83rd worldwide, followed by five other countries and one Arab country, Algeria, which also came in last worldwide.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology announced in mid-2018 that it was embarking on a strategy to increase the quality of Internet connections in Egypt and was developing the entire network by replacing copper cables with fibre-optic ones that allow faster DSL and fixed broadband connections.

These developments, the ministry said, would allow for Internet speeds of no less than 40 MBps.

Mohamed Abu Koreish, secretary-general of the Association of Communications and Network Engineers, an NGO, said the ministry had not succeeded in increasing the quality and speed of Internet connections in Egypt and subscribers had grown tired of complaining to Internet service-providers.

There were no effective measures in place to oblige telecommunications companies to commit to contracts signed with Internet users, Abu Koreish said.

Internet speeds for DSL are commonly given as up to 16 MBps in such contracts, but the companies concerned do not always provide these as they do not follow international guidelines on the availability of equipment and outgoing ports in relation to the number of Internet users, causing congestion on the web, he said.

As far as mobile Internet is concerned, speeds may reach 18 MBps during rush hours and 44 MBps at other times. 4G technology allows mobile Internet speeds to reach 100 MBps for video and one Gigabyte per second for static material.

Ahmed Al-Beheiri, president of Telecom Egypt, said his company had replaced more than 50 per cent of its copper cables with fibre-optic ones in the past two years and is slated to finish doing so during 2019.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 January, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Seeking speedier connections

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