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Got net? Here are the best cities in Southeast Asia for remote work

November 6, 2020 blog-post big-data data-analysis data-visualization general-interest geospatial mapping maps open-data business development telecommunications

This is the first instalment of a series of blogs exploring digital connectivity using Ookla Speedtest data.

For most of 2020, many of us have been hunkered down with the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting trips to just the essentials. But if we were still in a pre-COVID world and you could easily pack up, fly off to another country, and work by the beach, would you choose Bali, Phuket, or Boracay? They’re all beautiful beaches, but the real question is: “which one has the fastest internet?”

According to Speedtest by Ookla, Phuket is the winner by far, with an average mobile download speed of 49mbps. Bali and Boracay trail far behind with speeds of 16mbps and 15mbps, respectively. That’s 216% faster download speeds for mobile! It’s no wonder Thailand’s beaches have always been a top destination for digital nomads.

While working by the beach may neither be practical nor possible for everyone, many of us have shifted to remote work and distance learning in the wake of the global pandemic. With this shift comes a rising demand for fast and reliable internet outside the workplace to keep up with video calls, webinars, and online classes.

What is your city’s Speedtest?

If you’ve ever checked your internet speed at speedtest.net, then you’re probably part of Ookla’s newly-released dataset on global internet speeds. Aggregated by quarter and by fixed broadband or mobile internet connection, this dataset shows us the average download speed, upload speed, and latency for geographic tiles of approximately 600m x 600m all over the world.

We zoomed in on neighbour capital cities in Southeast Asia to see just how fast the internet is across the region. It turns out that Singapore leads the charts for both fixed broadband and mobile download speed, followed by Bangkok. How’s that for productivity!

Singapore and Bangkok have the fastest speeds for both fixed broadband and mobile internet in Southeast Asia.

What is Singapore getting right?

Singapore has consistently had some of the fastest average internet speeds, not only in the region but in the world. According to Ookla’s Global Index, Singapore had a whopping average download speed of 227 mbps for the month of September 2020.

This didn’t happen overnight. The Singapore Government has had a long history of public policy driving digital technology since the 1980s. Government plans like the Intelligent Nation 2015 Master Plan, targeting that 90% of homes use broadband by 2015, and the Smart Nation Initiative for digitizing government services, payments, and public transport helped drive innovation and collaboration between the public and private sectors.

How can these datasets help improve connectivity?

Datasets like this are valuable for targeting telco infrastructure roll out, especially for site selection and site planning. With this data, we not only know an area’s average speed to upgrade services, but also the potential demand based on the number of speed tests run. On the other hand, this is also crucial for the development sector to inform interventions and collaborations to decrease access inequality under the digital divide.

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