Which country has the fastest internet in Central America? If you’re planning to live in the region as a digital nomad or remote worker, it’s an all-important question. Let’s take a look and see.
The pandemic may be over, but the remote work legacy that exploded from it ain’t going anywhere. In Central America, Costa Rica and Panama both have remote work visa laws in place, and we can expect to see more of the same around the region going forward.
Whether you’re traveling for a short time or you’re a potential digital nomads/remote worker, internet speed is a critical issue. Slow/unstable internet is a potential dealbreaker for many people. Folks need to have some semblance of what to expect in Central America. And that’s where we come in.
We went to Ookla, the internet speed test guys, to check their latest global index of mobile and fixed broadband speeds from around the world. It’s been a while since I’ve done this and I wanted to see how Central America’s performance compared to the rest of the world right now. The latest info from Ookla is from September – they generally update in the second half of each month with data from the previous month.
The latest Global Index is here. In mobile, North Macedonia climbed into 16th place, the country’s first time in the top 20. Montenegro made a big jump from 65th to 38th. Where does your country rank? https://t.co/aNDy5uG3q3 pic.twitter.com/y8RAjbhi4A
— Speedtest by Ookla (@Speedtest) October 18, 2022
First, it’s important to say that compared to the rest of the world, Central America performs rather poorly.
The highest ranking country in Central America for fixed broadband speed is Panama, at number 23 in the world (up two spots from 25th place in August), which, admittedly, isn’t too shabby. For mobile speeds, Guatemala ranks highest in the region, at 79th in the world (up six places since August so congrats in order there).
Despite these rises, it’s still a far cry from nations like Norway, the UAE, and Qatar(top three fastest mobile speeds) and Chile (wow!) Singapore, and China (top three fastest fixed broadband speeds).
For now, unless you’re prepared to spend some money, your internet speeds in Central America will be slower than many places.
But it’s not all bad. Internet speed has improved dramatically over the years in Central America, across the whole region.
So let’s see how each country in Central America performs for both mobile and fixed broadband internet speed. We created a handy chart below:
The above chart is pretty cool (if we say so ourselves) because you can click on the tabs at the bottom to delete and re-add to the table, to get a better idea of things. Go ahead and play with it. Knock yourself out.
The most interesting (although not surprising) thing that jumps out is that Panama has by far the fastest fixed broadband speed in the region, with a download speed of 107.85 mbps (upload speed of 14.66 mbps). If you’re looking for the fastest internet, look at Panama.
What is surprising is how far Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Belize have come. Costa Rica’s broadband speed has shot up since our last update earlier this year, making it easily the second-best country for internet users in the region. The other two countries come far below Costa Rica, but still well above Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
For mobile internet, Guatemala does best in Central America. If you’re online on your phone in Central America, you’re better off there. Honduras comes second in mobile speed in the region.
The worst countries in the region for mobile speed are Panama and Costa Rica (although, in fairness, Ookla has no figures for Belize). For fixed broadband speed, it’s El Salvador and Guatemala who come off as the the slowest.
Here’s how it plays out country-by-country for September 2022:
Mobile internet speed fastest to slowest:
- El Salvador (87th in world)
- Honduras (80th in world)
- Costa Rica (103rd in world)
- Nicaragua (100th in world)
- Panama (113rd in world)
- Guatemala (79th in world)
*No figures available for Belize.
Fixed broadband speed fastest to slowest:
- Panama (23rd in world)
- Costa Rica (65th in world)
- Belize (90th in world)
- Nicaragua (93rd in world)
- Honduras (108th in world)
- Guatemala (116th in world)
- El Salvador (109th in the world)
How about individual cities in Central America?
Since our last update in April, Ookla has started ranking cities for their internet speed as well as countries. This is invaluable for remote workers to figure out where they want to be in any given country. Unfortunately, Ookla only lists cities with populations of over 500,000, which eliminates most places in tiny Central America from their rankings.
With that said, we’ve collated the Central American cities from Ookla’s list:
Mobile internet speed fastest to slowest per Central American city:
- Guatemala City, Guatemala (99th in world)
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras (107th in world)
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras (109th in world)
- San Salvador, El Salvador (113rd in world)
- Managua, Nicaragua (125th in world)
- San José, Costa Rica (129th in world)
- Panama City, Panama (140th in world)
Fixed broadband speed fastest to slowest per Central American city:
- Panama City, Panama (35th in world)
- San José, Costa Rica (85th in world)
- Managua, Nicaragua (113rd in world)
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras (122nd in world)
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras (127th in world)
- San Salvador, El Salvador (128th in world)
- Guatemala City, Guatemala (131st in world)
We’ll keep updating this article to track internet speeds in Central America.
It’ll be interesting to check the progress of the different countries and see if we have any drastic changes.
Let us know what your internet speed is like in Central America. We’d love to compile complete record of this in as close to real time as we can.
James Dyde is the editor of www.centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.