PingER project data on the health of Africa’s Internet networks
Using the common “ping” test between pairs of hosts, researchers at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center regularly measure how well data is flowing across global networks. Over the years, we’ve often turned to the SLAC PingER project for data on the health of Africa’s Internet networks. A variety of links can be found in our data and maps sections. However, a 2,200-word article in IEEE Spectrum by Les Cottrell of SLAC piqued our interest once again.
Since PingER’s start nearly two decades ago, researchers have set up close to 100 monitoring hosts around the globe, most of which now collectively observe about 900 target hosts in 164 countries. Quite a few hosts are in Africa – every African nation has one except for Western Sahara, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and South Sudan. Over time, the project has shown how network quality has improved for most Africans. The chart below shows how a shift from satellite to terrestrial fibre has resulted in faster data transit times between at least the USA and African countries.
In the recent article, R. Les Cottrell does a great job summarizing the project. A few tidbits are especially interesting:
- The University of Kinshasa has nearly 30,000 students and faculty, but only 800 computers. Many don’t even have Internet privileges.
- A university in Kenya might pay fifty times more for 1 Gbps of bandwidth than a school in Germany for the same service.
- Looking at PingER data from Africa, it’s clear that although Internet performance is improving, it still lags the rest of the world. Packet loss, for example, remains higher than in any other region except Central Asia.
- Loss rates in Africa have begun to drop below 1 percent in the past couple of years. This is the magic number needed to support VoIP calls and video streaming.
- Since 2008, more than a dozen sub-Saharan countries have mostly left satellite Internet for fibre. As a result, the latency of their connections has dropped by approximately half.
- Africa’s throughput in 2009 was comparable to Europe’s 15 years ago. By this measure, Africa is now just 14 years behind Europe. There is a chance Africa may even catch up to Europe by 2030.
The PingER site itself is a treasure trove of data. Here, one can find a history of Internet quality. We quickly looked at round-trip times found in April 2013.
- Average RTT from Africa to all other global regions is 359ms (only Oceania and South Asia have higher times)
- Many regions have extremely high round trip times connecting to Africa (e.g. 824ms for S.E. Asia)
- The average RTT for sites in Africa has actually increased in the past 12 months – from 376ms to 402ms
- Throughput (actual amount of information as opposed to theoretical bandwidth) within Africa is weak compared to intracontinental throughput found elsewhere. Relatively speaking, Africa is best connected to Europe, then to Africa. North America lags by another third, but is head of Latin America, and Middle East, and Asia.
In April 2013, the round trip time from:
- Burkina Faso to Senegal took less than 400ms, but the time to Togo was twice as long, and Ethiopia was nearly 3x as long.
- Brazil to South Africa took less than 500ms.
- Italy to Algeria was a fast 69ms. To East African countries was around 200ms with South Africa increasing to 250ms.
- Jordan to Ethiopia took 777ms but North African connections were under 150ms.
- Pakistan round trip times were generally in the 400-500ms range, with Tunisia and Senegal in the 200ms range.
- South Africa’s TENET connection with Rhodes University and CSIR were 18ms and 29ms, respectively. To Uganda was only 89ms, but Togo came in at 660ms. Other African nations were in the 300-450ms range.
We’ve also made a table of times from Palo Alto, California to available sites in Africa:
- Average RTT: 359ms (median 329ms)
- Lowest RTT: Sudan (143ms), Ethiopia (173ms), Morocco (188ms), Algeria (194ms)
- Highest RTT: Gabon (923ms), Liberia (923ms), Niger (803ms), Chad (771 ms), DR Congo (737ms)
|Country TLD||Remote Site||April 2013 RTT (ms)|