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Internet Unreliability, 2023

Mat Ford
Technology Insights, Internet Society
Resilience, Technology
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January 23, 2024

Some time ago, I wrote here about what we could learn from an analysis of data from Qrator Labs related to the diversity of cross-border Internet connectivity for countries worldwide.

As a network of networks, the Internet can be characterized as a set of dependencies between networks. Dependencies for both connectivity and customers. An outage at any specific network can impact dependent networks that do not have alternative means of accessing the Internet. Some networks are so large that significant outages can impact many dependent networks simultaneously and many more individual end-users. We can compare countries in terms of the diversity of their network interconnectivity and infer reliability for Internet users in those countries. This is important as knowing where the fabric of Internet connectivity is stretched thin can help with targeting initiatives and resources to help build a more reliable Internet for everyone.

Qrator Labs recently published its annual report on Internet reliability, so it’s time to provide an updated analysis to see what changes we can observe.

Which Countries Have the Most Unreliable Internet?

Qrator Labs’ methodology identifies the networks with the most significant potential impact on other regional networks during an outage. They provide tables of the most reliable countries for IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity. Their results provide us with a percentage figure for the impact of a regional outage, where a lower percentage means less impact and more resilient Internet connectivity in that country.

But what about the other end of the spectrum? Which countries have structural unreliability built into their networking dependencies?

To understand this better, we’ve charted the relationships between Internet unreliability, Internet penetration, and population. We have also compared the differences between IPv4, IPv6, and IPv6 partial connectivity. This latter view includes a measure of networks that would have only partial connectivity to the IPv6 Internet in case of an outage at the most critical network.

Play with the chart and interrogate the data for yourself.

Some things we can readily observe include:

  • Most of the world’s population (the larger dots on the chart) live in countries with relatively low unreliability scores.
  • Internet penetration and unreliability are not closely linked: there are countries with high and low penetration scores on the right-hand side of the chart where the structurally more unreliable Internet countries reside.
  • Least developed countries have lower levels of Internet penetration (and lower levels of IPv6 deployment) than more developed countries. Land-locked countries and small island developing states show greater diversity with no clear grouping regarding penetration or unreliability.
  • The most apparent difference between the picture for IPv4 and IPv6 is a shift of many countries to the right, indicating lower levels of reliability where IPv6 is concerned. This is even more pronounced when we consider IPv6 partial connectivity. China is an outlier, having more reliable IPv6 (compared to IPv4) and much less reliable IPv6 partial connectivity. Qrator explains the huge unreliability score for China “is due to a large number of autonomous systems that announced prefixes belonging to the China Education and Research Network, CERNET (AS4538).”
  • Some of the more populous countries with relatively high levels of Internet unreliability include Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Guinea, and, with an unreliability rating of 92.5%, Uzbekistan (down from 98.5% in 2022).

What’s Changed?

Qrator Labs has been producing this data and refining its methodology for several years, allowing us to look at how the reliability picture has changed over time. The graph below suggests an improving situation where average reliability is concerned.

We can only speculate about the causes behind the dramatic improvement from 2021 to 2022 — it’s certainly possible that the COVID-19 pandemic led to greater awareness and emphasis on the importance of diverse (and, therefore, more reliable) connectivity.

Although the average numbers in the chart above show improving levels of reliability over time, per-country reliability changes from year to year are not always so positive. Since our last review of this data, 72 out of 188 countries have seen a growth in their IPv4 unreliability score, some by more than 10%, for example, Tajikistan (11%), DRC (11%), UAE (12%), Iran (30%) and Iraq (33%).

You can review the latest results from Qrator and see how countries are moving up or down in the rankings. Maintaining diverse upstream Internet providers should be a fundamental requirement for any Internet-dependent country, network, business, or individual.

Learn more about the health of your country’s Internet via the Pulse Country Reports and Pulse Internet Resilience Index.