According to this article dated July 30 2019, the island nation of Madagascar has faster internet than the United Kingdom.

If you only know Madagascar because of that animated penguins film, you've not been using the Internet properly. But that is understandable, because the African island nation has faster Internet speeds than you in the UK, France, or Canada.

Question: Is it true that Madagascar has faster internet speeds than the United Kingdom?

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    Rwanda has more female parliamentarians because all the males were killed in the genocide. – Chloe Aug 26 '19 at 19:36
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    The claim is so vague as to be basically meaningless. – barbecue Aug 26 '19 at 20:19
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    I found the full text of this article (just google its title), added as an edit to the question. While the edit is pending, here is the link: africaglobalnews.com/… – Brian Hellekin Aug 26 '19 at 20:34
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    The problem with internet in Madagascar is that all the ports are closed. – Studoku Aug 27 '19 at 14:13
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    As someone who lived and worked in Mada, in tech industry. As a malgache, First, it's ok to know a country only because of the Movie. And for the question No we do not have better internet. – xdtTransform Aug 28 '19 at 6:43

The claim is both misleading, and wrong from an objective point of view.

First, it is misleading because the numbers it refers to are the country's mean download speeds. In the objected countries, such as e.g. France (or even moreso Canada), a large number of people lives in rural, sometimes quite remote areas where, indeed, internet speeds are not always top-notch. Same problem here in Germany, if you live on a mountain top in the Hunsrück, well that's bad luck for gigabit internet access. But much unlike in Madagascar, you do get internet, only just it'll be none better than ADSL2+.
So, obviously, the mean ( = average) will reflect that negatively. Using the median would be a much more accurate and honest measure to begin with.

On the other hand, in Madagascar, if you have internet at all, you a) belong to a small elite and b) live in a large city where there exists a modern infrastructure. So yes, obviously, the famous last mile which is a dominating factor is much "better" for those who actually have internet. But all in all, the claim as such is deceptive, to the point of almost being a lie. Because "no internet" translates to 0Mbit/s.

Second, while a couple of better and more reliable links are planned for during/after 2019-2020, to date Madagascar as such is connected to the internet via exactly two cables, one being LION, the other being an odd route that finally ends in Mombassa in one direction where it has connection to SEACOM, TEAMS, and EASSy (plus some that are planned for 2020+) that finally end in FALCON, and has a connection to SAFE somewhere down south in Cape Town. Long lines that eventually end somewhere, and that hopefully conect to a high-bandwidth network, if nobody has pulled the cable.
There is thus the very unreliable route around the entire West African coast to connect to the Western World, and the route via the Arab world to connect with Asia, which is equally long and unreliable. Bandwidth is comparatively poor, but since there are so few users, currently nobody notices. In summary, internet connection in Madagascar is poor.

I don't have the possibility of accurately measuring that now, but I wouldn't be surprised if you had "typical" everyday RTTs of 200-300ms to most "mainstream" services and locations. If I try to open e.g. the website of l'Express de Madagascar (a large newspaper) from my "mainstream European" location, the connection times out 50% of the time (ping tells me 190ms, but what's ping worth if you don't get a connection). The other 50% it looks something like: Screenshot of resource transfer times as shown in Chrome Developer Tools

9 seconds for connection establishment, 4-5 seconds to transmit a 12kB image file, that's undisputably not an awesome internet connection. That's figures you had in the early 1990s with a 14.4 modem...

Note that "internet" is not the guy living next door. Internet are those guys (and servers) living 1,200 or 5,000 kilometers away.

France, on the other hand, is directly connected to every significant network within Europe with reliable, high-bandwidth, low-latency lines, and with around 20 more or less line-of-sight undersea cables to US east coast. And, some, uh... well, not so great lines going far east (think FALCON), but the uplinks to these are still two or three orders or magnitude better than the African connection coming from the south, both in bandwidth/latency and reliability. Same for UK. Same for Canada, obviously, which has a very short and direct route to USA.

For European countries like France or UK (and Canada likewise), the speed of light is the biggest challenge (since it affects latency and is somewhat tough to improve on with our current understanding of physics). For Madagascar, getting a connection to something outside Madagascar at all is the challenge.

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    I know this is highly voted up, but it is not a good Skeptics.SE answer. It doesn't actually answer the question, and it provides no references to support its claims. – Oddthinking Aug 31 '19 at 17:43
  • Parts of this answer are incorrect. When accessing l'Express de Madagascar's web page from Germany, you are routed to a web hoster in the United States. Yes, the web page is not very fast, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the international internet connections in Madagascar. When accessing web sites, which seem to be actually hosted in Madagascar, I am routed via Paris, Réunion and then to Madagascar on a reliable connection. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 2 '19 at 7:59
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: Stating that this part is incorrect is a bold statement and defies objectivity. It was cetainly correct at the time of posting (see image). The fact that they moved the server meanwhile, funnily few days after after I posted this, is as inconsequential as the fact that now the website loads in 0.5 seconds rather than 36 seconds (if it loaded at all). The fact that L'express "fixed" their website connectivity has zero bearing for the validity of the answer regarding "internet connection". – Damon Sep 2 '19 at 9:46
  • The embedded image only shows that the web page loaded slowly, not that the server was (or is) in Madagascar. As I also wrote, tracing the connection to web servers which are actually located in Madagascar show that the connections are not routed along the links you are listing in the answer and that these web pages are loading relatively fast. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 2 '19 at 10:11

That might be true in 2017, or at the beginning of the 2018 when UK analytics firm Cable published its speed table. Right now you can check the stats live.

And although Madagascar is still "faster" than UK only 7% of its population have access to the internet (compared to 94.6% in UK) according to this page.

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    For reference: the map indicates that in 2018, Madagascar was indeed faster than the UK, France, and Canada, as the article claims; but as of 2019 it's only faster than the UK. – F1Krazy Aug 26 '19 at 11:01
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    Note: seems to be based on mean average speeds at the home router. Therefore high average means many with fast home internet, and also, few with slow home internet. UK has many rural areas where most households have home broadband, but it is relatively slow with old infrastructure. I believe that in Madagascar, most people use relatively slow 3G (not counted in the stats), and home broadband, while fast with modern infrastructure, is expensive and relatively rare. – user56reinstatemonica8 Aug 26 '19 at 11:07
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    What about latency from the distance the packets need to travel? I have a feeling that there are more servers in/near the UK than Madagascar, so I wonder how that would affect the speeds. – Laurel Aug 26 '19 at 14:59
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    It should be noted that Madagascar is an outlier among African nations in the Cable.co.uk ranking, with only South Africa and Kenya (besides Madagascar) in the top 100. And in the internet world stats link, Madagascar has one of the smallest internet penetration percentages among African countries, 9.8%, well below the African average of 39.5% (or the world average of 62.4%). Also its internet growth rate was slower than the total African one between 2000 and 2019. So it really seems to be a statistically inflated result. – Brian Hellekin Aug 26 '19 at 20:22
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    @laurel You'll have to go on to superuser.se or maybe unix.se for a longer explanation, but for now take my word for it that nowadays that factor is negligible compared to the others. – Shadur Aug 27 '19 at 7:29

As of July 2019 according to the Speedtest.net Global Index , Madagascar (unranked mobile, rank 68 fixed) ranks below all of the 3 listed countries: United Kingdom (rank 50 mobile, rank 41 fixed), France (rank 18 mobile, rank 15 fixed) and Canada (rank 6 mobile, rank 12 fixed).

Even in 2017 (August 2017 Wayback Machine data), it still ranks below all of the 3 tested countries.

Other speed test trackers such as Netflix ISP Speed Index don't track Madagascar.

Only one source put Madagascar above the other countries, that being the Cable.co.uk dataset which was summarised by Fastmetrics. In the summary, you can see that Madagascar only had ~4000 datapoints out of the 163 million speed tests, which is the likely cause of the inflated ranking. The Speedtest.net results also show a similar lack of results, with most months lacking enough data for a ranking.

It's unlikely that the average Malagasy had faster internet speeds than any of the 3 listed countries, considering the statistically insignificant number of results.

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    correct, and the few datapoints come probably from government offices and what few business hotels have internet at all, in the capital, right next to a major datacenter with a backbone connection. – jwenting Aug 28 '19 at 8:42

Several answers provided data about Madagascar in particular. Here is a more general explanation why it's not surprising.

Poorer countries generally tend to have better internet connection at the moment, mainly due to the more developed countries having started building their infrastructure sooner.

Technology and the speed of network connections improved drastically over the past two decades. As richer countries started building their infrastructure earlier, they used technology which since then has been superseded. In places where they started building the infrastructure more recently, they have used newer, more recent technology.

If you place underground cables for your backbones, you want to use them for a while at least until your investments are returned, you won't dig them up and replace them with newer and better ones every year as soon as new technology becomes available. Same with server farms, routers, etc. Even the cheapest hardware you can buy now is likely much faster then the most expensive you could have bought 15 years ago.

This will likely change in the near future when older hardware in the more developed countries will start getting too old, and has to be decommissioned and replaced.

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    Another big factor is that speed tests will usually measure to the closest server by default. The result of this is they give unrealistically rosy pictures for networks with good local connectivity but poor connectivity to the rest of the Internet. – Peter Green Aug 27 '19 at 14:55
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    "Poorer countries generally tend to have better internet connection at the moment" - for those that can actually get it – Alnitak Aug 27 '19 at 15:59
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    There is also the "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" aspect. My decade or so old internet hardware downloads (and uploads) everything I want or need at acceptable speeds, so why should I spend money on hardware upgrades that don't provide a benefit? – jamesqf Aug 28 '19 at 5:30
  • "Even the cheapest hardware you can buy now is likely much faster then the most expensive you could have bought 15 years ago" do you have a citation for this or is it just your conjecture? – PC Luddite Aug 28 '19 at 5:51
  • @PCLuddite : search Amazon or any similar site for gigabit routers. You'll find wireless ones even for $50-$60. The 802.11n standard came out only 10 years ago, and it stiull didn't support one gigabit, and the highest before that was 54 Mbit/s. Is that enough as a rough comparison? – vsz Aug 28 '19 at 13:03

This is answerable only within particular context of what does it mean for country to have an internet speed X, therefore the original presumption and question is not very meaningful, unless you specify what exactly are you measuring.

In general, we could reasonably expect that UK will have availability of faster internet in general (more high speed lines connected to more of the rest of the world), as well as drastically larger internet usage among population than Madagascar. However, this will vary a lot when you compare particular locations within countries themselves.

A rural English setting might have not only slower speed available than a major English town, but also slower internet speed than eg. capital of Madagascar.

Reliance on speedtest and similar sites doesn't seem to be very meaningful either.

For example, I was in Frankfurt am M., Germany not very long ago. I was used to having complete, fast and reliable 4G coverage in my country (Latvia). In Frankfurt I was only able to buy mobile access, which yielded meager EDGE or HSPA in almost any location in the city. And at what seemed exorbitant price to me.

Nevertheless, Germany, along with a number of other European countries seem to be almost twice higher in some speed test rankings than Latvia, despite the fact that in practice internet is very frequently slower and more expensive there, and they are lower in other speed rankings available .

  • Interesting. What is issue with 4G in Germany? – SSimon Aug 28 '19 at 15:19
  • @SSimon I presume a larger country would have generally slower adoption of newer convenience technologies both because of new infrastructure expenses and sufficient investment and revenue from existing ones. – Gnudiff Aug 28 '19 at 15:56
  • Please provide some references to support your claims. Anecdotes are not sufficient. – Oddthinking Aug 31 '19 at 17:42
  • @Oddthinking I am not claiming anything in particular, except questioning the original premise, or, as it is termed in other SE sites, frame challenging it. Therefore, (my) anecdotal evidence simply shows that the whole concept of ranking is meaningless without reasonably well-defined terms (of what it actually means for a country to have higher internet speed), which are not defined in original question or the article it quoted. – Gnudiff Sep 2 '19 at 18:40
  • Here are some claims that you make that require references: [It is reasonable to expect that] UK has higher availability, more high speed lines, drastically larger Internet usage than Madagascar. That rural English settings have slower speeds that major US towns and of Madagascar. Speed test sites aren't meaningful. That in practice Internet is slower and more expensive in Latvia. It is wonderful to frame shift, but not if your frame shift is based on unreferenced speculations. – Oddthinking Sep 2 '19 at 18:44

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