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Internet in Ukraine and Europe: comparison of service features

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Internet in Ukraine and Europe: comparison of service features

Internet in Ukraine and Europe: comparison of service features

26.02.2024

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According to European Internet Statistics, as of January 2024, the average Internet user spends about 6 hours and 40 minutes online every day. How productively this time is used depends on the reliability of the connection and the convenience of the service. And they differ if we compare not only different providers, but also different regions. Therefore, we decided to study this issue in more detail in the context of Ukraine and Europe and share the results with you.

Over the past two years, Ukrainian providers have proved that they are able to cope with the challenges of the present, as well as have the potential for further development and new achievements. And already today, global telecom operators have something to learn from their colleagues from the Ukrainian telecoms industry and apply in their practice.

Infrastructure and internet coverage

A typical Internet infrastructure consists of routers, fibre as a transport environment and electricity to power the entire system. Loss of power or significant damage to the main fibres means suspension of the Internet. Given the fact that military operations are still ongoing in Ukraine, the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine plans to use an underground method of laying cable in certain regions. This will allow residents to stay connected even in critical conditions, and ISPs' employees won’t risk their lives, as when getting to repair work after the destruction of critical infrastructure.

Despite the constant destruction of infrastructure in Ukraine, as of May 2023, 91% of the country was covered by the internet, according to the Ministry of Digital Transformation. Prior to the full-scale invasion, Ukraine planned to provide Internet access to all populated areas in 2022 and connect 95% of subscribers to the network by the end of 2023.

Internet connection speed

According to reported data published on the Cable.co.uk internet portal, the average internet speed in Western Europe as of mid-2023 was 118.69 Mbps. This was higher than in North America (94.02 Mbps), the Baltic States (80.09 Mbps) and Eastern Europe (67.92 Mbps).

Slower Internet speeds in less developed European countries are due to several reasons:

  • Firstly, copper cables are widely used in Eastern Europe. Compared to fibre optics, which is widely used in other parts of the world, the data transmission speeds over copper cables are slower.
  • Second, the diffusion of broadband in the Eastern European region is complicated by some geographical peculiarities. For example, Greece has a dense network of islands, which makes it difficult to build fibre-optic networks on its territory.

It's also worth noting that Internet connection speeds in Europe vary significantly from region to region: faster in cities and very slow in rural areas.

According to Speedtest by Ookla, as of December 2023, Ukraine ranked 67th in terms of fixed Internet speed (75.14 Mbps). But even with the constant destruction of infrastructure, Ukrainian providers are steadily working to increase average speeds, trying to provide users with fast and reliable Internet. By the way, gigabit Internet, which is faster than the maximum standards, is also available in Ukraine.

Equipment and technology


Until February 2022, one of the advantages of the Ukrainian network was fibre optic Internet. With the outbreak of a full-scale war, the requests for connecting services via fibre optics increased rapidly. Given the increased demand from users, major operators in the Ukrainian market have increased investment in expanding their own networks and building new gigabit Internet zones using modern and energy-independent GPON technology. Striving for energy independence of their networks, large providers ensure redundancy of all critical elements of telecom infrastructure with the help of modern equipment.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend in Europe to invest in fibre-optic infrastructure in order to upgrade networks laid with copper cables. This is helping to increase cable Internet speeds and improve the quality of Internet services.

Networks’ energy independence

Together with this phrase, one immediately thinks of blackouts, which took place quite often in the autumn-winter period of 2022-2023. When the lights went out, some users also lost their Internet. Whereas users of services based on GPON technology and equipment reserved on both sides had access to Internet connection even during power outages.

GPON technology is relatively new for the Ukrainian market, while it has already gained popularity in Europe, the USA and Japan. The transition to energy-independent networks based on GPON technology is exactly the solution that has proved its effectiveness in the conditions of Ukrainian realities. The process is also facilitated by the modernisation of telecom equipment, which is planned under the projects of the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine. One of them is a joint project of the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine and Nokia to upgrade the equipment of telecom operators in front-line areas.

Backbone telecom operators played an important role in maintaining uninterrupted power supply at the nodes of Ukrainian providers even before the war. Thanks to their support, the networks that connect Ukraine with Europe could function for several days in the event of a power outage due to bad weather (provided that the stations and nodes of the providers were provided with batteries).

Cybersecurity


We live in an era when the Internet is the most affected by cyber threats. Both private users and companies of all sizes are in the crosshairs of hackers. This problem has become especially acute in Ukraine. According to official figures, the number of cyberattacks in 2023 has increased by almost 16% compared to 2022. Therefore, now Ukrainian specialists have to work on strengthening the protection of critical infrastructure from DDoS attacks and other threats. Also, the Ukrainian government has created a special cybersecurity unit and introduced a number of new security measures. Internet providers recommend that business clients use telecom protection tools and take care of backing up their data.

The European region has also seen an increase in cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, government agencies and businesses. And because Europe is typically held to high standards regarding data privacy protection, it is investing in research and development of advanced cybersecurity technologies to combat cybercriminals.

Internet availability

According to the Digital Quality of Life Index data, as of 2023, France ranked first in the overall ranking among European countries in terms of Internet availability, while Ukraine ranked 46th. At the same time, Ukrainians are no longer surprised by the availability of the Internet in bomb shelters in Kharkiv, Kyiv and other large cities. After all, since March 2022, Ukrainian Internet providers, including Maxnet, have connected hundreds of shelters to fixed Wi-FI Internet throughout Ukraine, so that even there people can stay in touch with their loved ones.

It should also be noted that with the beginning of the full-scale invasion, a significant part of users moved to the western regions of our country. But local telecommunication networks weren’t designed for a large number of Internet services’ consumers, because of which there were difficulties in their work. To eliminate the problems, providers started working on improving the availability and quality of communication in rural areas. According to a May 2023 report by the Ministry of Digital Economy, since 2021, more than 1 million Ukrainians in 3,268 villages have gained access to high-speed Internet, and in 2023, 6,000 Ukrainians got access to the service for the first time.

Prices and tariffs


Prices for digital connection services both in Europe and Ukraine depend on the chosen company and traffic speed. But the monthly services’ cost of European providers is mostly many times higher than in Ukraine. For example, in Germany, the use of the Internet connected by DSL technology (or on the basis of a landline phone) costs about 25 EUR per month for 16 Mbps. Cable internet costs around 35 EUR/month for 50 Mbps and is less reliable than DSL.

The cost of Internet services in Ukraine also depends on the type of connection (individuals or business), speed and volume of the tariff package, region of connection. In 2023, the prices for using home Internet with speed up to 100 Mbps fluctuated within 100-450 UAH/month, the cost of Gigabit Internet was from 220 to 600 UAH/month.

Provision and cancellation of internet services

In the European market, it is possible to sign a contract for a home Internet connection online. Also, most Internet contracts provide users with the relevant equipment (a landline phone, if it is a DSL connection, or a router, if the client orders Wi-Fi Internet). In Ukraine, however, the necessary equipment usually has to be ordered additionally (for example, a subscriber terminal when connecting services using GPON technology).

In general, our local Internet service can be considered better than the European one in terms of quality. Thus, if in Ukraine it is possible to receive the ordered services within the next few days from the date of ordering, in most European countries customers can wait for weeks. For example, in Germany, delivery of a router and connection of a flat to the network is expected for at least two weeks. A master’s visit to carry out repair works will also take a long time (besides, this service is expensive). Nor will it be possible to cancel services quickly, as most providers require subscribers to give 3 months' notice of such a decision (only some allow a month's notice).

Another peculiarity of German operators: they usually offer Internet contracts with a minimum term of 2 years. For those for whom such a long-term option is not suitable, there are contracts that can be cancelled at any time, but with a monthly surcharge of 2-3 euros.

Conclusions

We can summarise that Ukraine's Internet system has proved to be flexible enough for the difficult conditions in which it has had to operate over the last few years. Yes, domestic Internet services are not yet up to European standards in all respects, but at the same time they are more affordable for the population and businesses. This is explained by the fact that the Ukrainian telecom market, unlike the European one, has huge competition, which encourages providers to provide high-speed Internet access at low prices and with a higher level of service.

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