How COVID-19 Affected Roaming for Mobile Speeds in Europe

Tuesday 15 Jun 2021 | Associate Member | Member Press Release | Member Resources |

Roaming might seem like an unusual topic in a time when inter-country travel has been largely prohibited, but we wanted to build on our previous analysis to see how roaming performance and behaviors evolved over the past year. This analysis examines Speedtest data from Android devices in the European Union (E.U.) and the United Kingdom (U.K.) from Q1 2020 through Q1 2021. We’ve included the U.K. to maintain continuity with pre-Brexit reports.

Roaming speeds were slower in most European countries in Q1 2021

Speedtest Intelligence® again showed that consumers who are roaming outside their home countries often experience slower speeds. During Q1 2021, 19 out of the 26 European countries with statistically viable roaming sample sizes experienced slower median roaming download speeds than median local download speeds. Cyprus and Malta had too few roaming samples to be included in this year’s analysis for Q1 2021.

For the seven countries that saw increased speeds, Latvians experienced the largest increase in median download speed when roaming elsewhere in Europe at 23.4%, which was followed closely by Estonia (22.8%) and Ireland (19.5%). Greece, Romania and Slovenia saw increases of more than 5%. The U.K. saw about the same speeds roaming and locally with an increase of only 0.5% when roaming. Hungary also saw comparable roaming download speeds to local speeds with a decrease of only 0.5% when roaming.

Median Local vs. Roaming Download Speeds in Europe
Speedtest Intelligence® | Q1 2021
Country Local Download (Mbps) Roaming Download (Mbps) % Change
Austria 36.19 26.13 -27.8%
Belgium 43.90 27.52 -37.3%
Bulgaria 61.76 29.74 -51.8%
Croatia 48.23 31.3 -35.1%
Czechia 31.35 19.74 -37.0%
Denmark 50.11 22.18 -55.7%
Estonia 34.34 42.16 22.8%
Finland 43.02 31.68 -26.4%
France 34.68 29.62 -14.6%
Germany 27.56 20.14 -26.9%
Greece 32.38 35.51 9.7%
Hungary 28.66 28.51 -0.5%
Ireland 14.99 17.91 19.5%
Italy 25.24 21.66 -14.2%
Latvia 22.69 28.00 23.4%
Lithuania 33.66 30.80 -8.5%
Luxembourg 40.65 26.31 -35.3%
Netherlands 77.52 26.48 -65.8%
Poland 26.51 23.13 -12.7%
Portugal 26.16 23.74 -9.3%
Romania 25.12 26.80 6.7%
Slovakia 23.79 20.94 -12.0%
Slovenia 27.63 29.58 7.1%
Spain 23.78 18.21 -23.4%
Sweden 38.26 23.16 -39.5%
United Kingdom 27.96 28.09 0.5%

 

Every other country on our list saw decreases in median download speeds of 8.5% or more while roaming, with customers from the Netherlands experiencing the largest drop (65.8%) from a local speed of 77.52 Mbps to 26.48 Mbps while roaming. Customers from Denmark and Bulgaria experienced roaming speeds less than half of what they’re accustomed to at home with decreases of 55.7% and 51.8%, respectively.

Roaming decreased during the pandemic while speeds increased

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended countless lives with multiple lockdowns throughout 2020 and 2021 severe limits to movement across borders. Data from Speedtest Intelligence reflects this decrease in roaming with roaming samples markedly down when comparing Q1 2021 to Q1 2020. We saw the most roaming samples during Q3 2020 and Q1 2020, which corresponds to increased lockdowns and movement restrictions in Q2 and Q4 2020 in response to the first and second waves of the pandemic.

Roaming speeds for all European countries combined increased 6.9% between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, though the increase was not linear. Median download speed while roaming decreased from 22.89 Mbps in Q1 2020 to 22.09 in Q2 2020 and slipped down to 20.68 Mbps in Q3 2020. Roaming speeds began to increase in Q4 2020 with the median download speed rising to 23.42 Mbps, and Q1 2021 saw a further increase to 24.47 Mbps.

ookla_roaming_quarter_change_eu_0621-1

 

Estonia saw the biggest year-over-year increase in median roaming download speed, Slovakia and Italy saw the largest decrease

Median European Roaming Download Speeds
Speedtest Intelligence® | Q1 2020 – Q1 2021
Country Q1 2020 Download (Mbps) Q1 2021 Download (Mbps) % Change
Europe (All Countries Combined) 22.89 24.47 6.9%
Austria 24.39 26.13 7.1%
Belgium 23.78 27.52 15.7%
Bulgaria 22.81 29.74 30.4%
Croatia 29.28 31.30 6.9%
Czechia 20.23 19.74 -2.4%
Denmark 21.38 22.18 3.7%
Estonia 27.82 42.16 51.5%
Finland 32.18 31.68 -1.6%
France 24.57 29.62 20.6%
Germany 20.74 20.14 -2.9%
Greece 41.07 35.51 -13.5%
Hungary 25.10 28.51 13.6%
Ireland 22.08 17.91 -18.9%
Italy 26.98 21.66 -19.7%
Latvia 26.38 28.00 6.1%
Lithuania 22.60 30.80 36.3%
Luxembourg 18.82 26.31 39.8%
Netherlands 18.39 26.48 44.0%
Poland 17.01 23.13 36.0%
Portugal 23.78 23.74 -0.2%
Romania 23.64 26.80 13.4%
Slovakia 26.16 20.94 -20.0%
Slovenia 25.30 29.58 16.9%
Spain 15.05 18.21 21.0%
Sweden 21.36 23.16 8.4%
United Kingdom 29.48 28.09 -4.7%

 

2020 also posed many challenges for telecom operators around the world as customers shifted use patterns. Despite these challenges, many Europeans saw increases in median roaming speeds year-over-year. In fact, customers in 17 out of the 26 countries analyzed saw faster download speeds while roaming elsewhere in Europe when comparing Q1 2020 to Q1 2021. Estonians saw the largest increase at 51.5% (from 27.82 Mbps to 42.16 Mbps), the Netherlands was next with a 44.0% jump (from 18.39 Mbps to 26.48 Mbps) and Luxembourg saw a 39.8% increase in download speed (from 18.82 Mbps to 26.31 Mbps).

Countries whose customers experienced year-over-year decreases in median downloads speed while roaming include Slovakia (20.0% decrease), Italy (19.7%), Ireland (18.9%), Greece (13.5%), the U.K. (4.7%), Germany (2.9%), Czechia (2.4%), Finland (1.6%) and Portugal (0.2%).

While the year-over-year change is an interesting baseline metric, it’s also important to note only Denmark, Germany, Poland and Spain had consistently slower median roaming download speeds than the European average during every quarter from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021. Every other country had at least one quarter where speeds were faster than the European average.

Outbound roaming speeds varied drastically from country to country from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021

Roaming speeds are heavily dependent on agreements between individual operators, which means they can vary dramatically by country and by operator. We looked closely at outbound roaming for individual countries to see how different countries’ networks performed during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Customers from the Netherlands roaming in France saw the fastest median roaming download speed in all of Europe during Q1 2021 at 70.46 Mbps. Customers from Germany roaming in Portugal experienced the slowest median roaming download speed during Q3 2020 at 0.42 Mbps.

Here were some of the fastest roaming speeds from select countries to other countries within Europe between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021:

  • Netherlands to France (70.46 Mbps in Q1 2021)
  • Bulgaria to the U.K. (58.21 Mbps in Q4 2020)
  • Netherlands to Poland (55.77 Mbps in Q1 2021)
  • Denmark to Sweden (40.46 Mbps in Q4 2020)
  • Finland to Estonia (48.41 Mbps in Q1 2020)

Here were some of the slowest roaming speeds between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021:

  • Germany to Portugal (0.42 Mbps in Q3 2020)
  • Czechia to France (4.98 Mbps in Q3 2020)
  • France to Portugal (5.54 Mbps in Q3 2020)
  • Hungary to France (5.95 Mbps in Q3 2020)
  • Poland to Belgium (7.59 Mbps in Q1 2020)

We’ll continue to watch roaming speeds over the next year to see how roaming changes as more countries reopen and travel picks up again. If you’re interested in learning more about roaming speeds for your business or country, please click here.

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