Annual Report: Europe vs US Broadband Performance 2020

2020's Unexpected Bonus: US Internet Speeds Doubled in 2020

Introduction

  • US broadband speeds increased 91% from 2019-2020, nearly doubling YoY, as measured by annual speed test medians
  • US average broadband speeds overtook western EU countries like the UK, France, and Germany for the first time in 5 years
  • Broadband speeds in the EU overall rose 57% from 2019–2020, 34% lower than the 91% performance increase in the US

American internet users have had a very good 2020: according to research performed by FairInternetReport, median US internet speeds in 2020 doubled to 33.16mbps, up from 17.34mbps in 2019. Covering the five years of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, this is the largest speed increase seen in the US, with speeds staying essentially the same in 2016 and 2017 (8.91mbps and 9.08mbps respectively), and 2018 recording a median speed of 12.83mbps.

The US stills lags behind many European and developed nations worldwide, and its major cities also often lag behind their European equivalents. That said, there is cause for celebration in Dallas, Seattle and Austin, after our analysis has shown that these cities are performing extremely well relative to most European capital cities.

 

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Published: November 24th 2020

Updated: November 27th 2020

US vs Europe Speed Test Data Analysis

  • US 50% slower than the fastest EU nations
  • Denmark and Switzerland 2-3 times faster than EU average
  • Italy continues to have the worst internet in the EU, often under 40% of other nations' speed
While US internet speeds are improving, they fall in the same 30-ish mbps bracket as the UK, Germany, Poland, and France, at the bottom half of our EU speed rankings. While Italy's median speed - 12.71mbps - is an improvement on its 2019 speed of 8.94mbps, this is still barely 40% of the US median. Denmark tops out the chart with a median speed of 123.96mbps, followed by Switzerland with 110.77mbps.
Chart of US vs Europe speed test data

US vs Europe Major City Internet Performance Results

  • Many US and EU cities saw 100%+ jumps in speed in 2020
  • Austin increased nearly 3x from 22.63mbps to 64.72mbps
  • Amsterdam nearly 2x faster from 31.21mbps to 60.31mbps
The big story of 2020 - a doubling of real-world internet speeds - was also seen in many US and EU cities. Dallas greatly improved its broadband speeds in 2020, doubling from 20.25mbps in 2019 up to 39.61mbps today. While Los Angeles saw a 28% increase, its internet speeds still lag, clocking in a median speed of 22.57mbps. Stockholm in Sweden returned to high speeds, reaching 49.61mbps after a disappointing 2019, an increase of 3x from 2019's low of 16.12mbps. Seattle's speeds went up 70% from 28.22mbps in 2019 to 47.95mbps in 2020.
Charting US internet performance vs European capital cities

Comparing Population with Broadband Speed

This year's internet speed test data showed an interesting correlation between population and real-world broadband speeds. We created a chart comparing a country's population against the median download speed experienced by its users, and a pattern emerged: while all countries over a certain size - starting with Poland's 38 million residents - see roughly the same speed, the data seems to imply that if you live in a country with a small population, you are vastly more likely to experience faster internet speeds.
Chart comparing population size vs broadband speeds

US Broadband vs Developed Nations

  • US broadband speed measurements increased 35% more than their counterparts in other developed countries, seeing an 91% overall increase compared to 56% aggregate increase of developed nations worldwide.
We aggregated the median internet speed seen in speed tests from GNI per capita "High-income" countries, analysed over the last five years, and compared the results to the same for the whole of the USA. Despite the US's results against various European countries, when compared to high-income developed nations as a whole, the US is now performing strongly.
Chart analysing US and GNI internet test speed

US vs European Nations Internet Performance

RankCountry2020 Mbps2019 Mbpsvs. US 2020
1Denmark FlagDenmark123.96
75.60273.85%
2Switzerland FlagSwitzerland110.77
64.67234.07%
3Sweden FlagSweden75.54
53.00127.83%
4Netherlands FlagNetherlands70.32
42.99112.09%
5Finland FlagFinland57.78
41.3974.25%
6Belgium FlagBelgium47.24
31.0342.46%
7Norway FlagNorway41.66
26.3325.64%
 US FlagUnited States33.16
17.34 
8Germany FlagGermany29.64
17.04-10.59%
9UK FlagUnited Kingdom27.23
19.72-17.88%
10Poland FlagPoland26.18
17.68-21.05%
11Spain FlagSpain23.41
13.55-29.40%
12Ireland FlagIreland23.36
13.99-29.55%
13France FlagFrance23.01
13.53-30.62
14Austria FlagAustria22.03
15.35-33.55%
15Italy FlagItaly12.71
8.94-61.66%

US vs France Internet Performance

  • US has 44% faster internet speeds than France
  • France's 2020 speeds increased by 70% in 2020, 21% less than the US
France's internet users saw a significant increase in median download speed from 2019-2020, going up from 13.53mbps to 23.00mbps, an increase of nearly 70%. Given that France's median internet speeds have been somewhat stagnant, recording 11.13mbps in 2016, then 13.33mbps in 2017, and 10.14 in 2018, the lift well into the twenty-mbps club is very welcome.
Charting US broadband performance against France

US vs Germany Internet Performance

  • US recorded 12% faster median mbps in 2020 than Germany
  • Germany increased download speeds by 74% during 2019-2020
Germany's broadband performance had a fantastic 2020, increasing from a median of 17.04mbps in 2019 up to 29.64mbps in 2020. The last time Germany saw speeds in this range as 2017 with 20.88mbps. While US speeds are 12% faster than those in Germany, this is still a great improvement of 74% on 2019's figures.
Chart of Germany internet speeds compared to US speeds

US vs Italy Internet Performance

  • US broadband performance 160% ahead of Italy
  • Italy's internet speeds went up by 42% in 2020
Italy is once again at the bottom of the EU's internet speed charts. While 2020 showed a decent increase of 42%, this is for pretty low speeds; up from 8.94mbps in 2019 to 12.71mbps in 2020. The US is obviously leagues ahead of Italy here, and YoY the US's increase was 49% higher than Italy's.
Charting internet speeds in Italy vs USA

US vs The Netherlands Internet Performance

  • US speed tests 52% slower than those in The Netherlands
  • Netherlands enjoyed YoY increase of 64%
While the year-on-year increase in internet speeds in the Netherlands was 28% less than in the States, the Netherlands' speeds are very impressive: 29.42mbps in 2018, 42.99mbps in 2019, and 70.32mbps in 2020. Looking at tests for 2020, the Netherlands' median broadband speed was 52% faster than the US.
Charting the Netherlands and US broadband speeds for comparison

US vs Spain Internet Performance

  • US has diverged from similar speeds to Spain; now 42% faster
  • Spain catching up, increase YoY 2019-2020 by 73%
While the US and Spain shared extremely similar internet speeds during 2016, 2017, and 2018, in 2019 the US was 29% faster than Spain, and now in 2020, the US has raced ahead, a full 42% faster than Spain's 2020 median speed of 23.40mbps.
Charting internet test speeds in Spain and the US

US vs The United Kingdom Internet Performance

  • US broadband performance 21% faster than UK median
  • UK speeds showed comparatively low 2020 increase of 38%
Until 2020, the UK has historically had the edge over median internet speeds in the States, typically by 10-15%. Now in 2020, the UK's median broadband speed of 27.22mbps is 22% lower than the US median of 33.15mbps. The open question is whether Brexit has caused the UK's broadband market to stall. The recently announced Openreach fibre broadband investments outside of the UK's major cities will hopefully pay off over the next couple of years, though with Brexit's impact still unknown (and largely unknowable), the UK's internet infrastsructure may be in for a torrid time.
Chart of US vs UK internet speeds

Methodology & Data

Using Google BigQuery, we generated a custom dataset from the Web100, NDT5 and NDT7 speed test datasets from Measurement Lab covering the years 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Speed test data for cellular connections was excluded from our analysis by using MaxMind's Connection Type database. We also excluded speed test results less than 10kbps to further reduce noise.

We loaded our custom dataset into SQL Server, and extracted city and country-level median speeds for our analysis.

"Developed" nations were selected for our analysis from the top 28 "High-income group" nations listed in Wikipedia's list of countries by GNI per capita article.

We created our graphs using DataGraph.