Internet (Un)Reliability Around the World

Picture of Mat Ford
Technology Insights, Internet Society
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October 17, 2022

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. Can we compare countries in terms of the diversity of their network interconnectivity and infer reliability for Internet users in those countries? This isn’t a purely academic question: knowing where the fabric of Internet connectivity is stretched thin can help with targeting initiatives and resources to help build a reliable Internet for everyone.

Bringing some data and analysis to this question, Qrator Labs recently published its annual report on Internet reliability around the world. Using a methodology that identifies the networks that have the largest potential impact on other regional networks in the event of an outage, they provide tables of the top most reliable countries for IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity. But what about the other end of the spectrum? Which countries have structural unreliability built into their networking dependencies?

Using data supplied by Qrator Labs (thanks!) coupled with statistical information from the UN and the World Bank, we’ve charted the relationships between Internet unreliability, Internet penetration, and population. We have also compared the differences between IPv4, IPv6, and IPv6 including partial connectivity. This latter view includes a measure of networks that would have only partial connectivity to the IPv6 Internet in the event 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:

  • Good news! 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 both high and low penetration scores on the right-hand side of the chart where the structurally more unreliable Internet countries reside.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, least developed countries have lower levels of Internet penetration than more developed countries. Land-locked countries and small island developing states are more diverse with no clear grouping in terms of penetration or unreliability.
  • The most obvious 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 including partial connectivity.
  • Some of the more populous countries with relatively high levels of Internet unreliability include Iran, Algeria, Cameroon, and the with an Unreliability rating of 98%, Uzbekistan.

Qrator Labs have been producing this data and refining their methodology for several years which allows us to take a look at how the reliability picture has been changing over time. The graph above suggests an improving situation where average reliability is concerned. We can only speculate about the causes behind the dramatic improvement from 2021 to 2022 but it’s certainly possible that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought home to more network operators the importance of diverse (and therefore more reliable) connectivity.

Maintaining diverse upstream providers should be a fundamental requirement for any Internet-dependent country, network, business, or person.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash