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Want to Live in a Network Paradise? Try Romania

Romania NetworkStop me if you’ve heard this one before:

  • Country A or group of countries A develop new technology and implement it, building out a Generation 1 infrastructure
  • Country B is late to the party, for whatever reason (technical, political, etc.)
  • Country B then later implements the technology Country A enjoys, but does so using Generation 2, 3, or 4 technology
  • Hence by the time Country B is up and running on this technology, its country is in a better position because Country A is on “old gear” (despite having invented the technology) while Country B benefits from waiting

This has played out many times in history.  For example, Britain invented the locomotive but Americans built out the West decades later.

Another example has played out in our own century with Internet broadband.  By the 1990s, the US was rapidly building out its broadband, while countries such as the former Warsaw Pact nations had yet to deploy.  But by the 2000s, these countries were implemented the then-current standards for these technologies, in some cases leap-frogging ahead of Western peers.

For example, I’ve talked to Romanians who enjoy 1gbps or 2gbps directly to their home, while many in the US must pay through the nose for something like 300mbps down/10mbps up.  And I think South Koreans enjoy 1Pbps even in train tunnels or something like that.

Of course, there are all kinds of considerations that would go into a “US bad, Romania good” kind of analysis.  For example, are we talking about the experience in a downtown San Francisco apartment or central Nevada?  Also, 99.2% of the US has access to at least one high-speed provider, while the number for Romania is 87.1%.

Here’s one interesting comparison, published by Romania Insider.  Who do you think offers the cheapest broadband connection in the world?

You probably didn’t think of Sudan.

Yes, only $2.30 a month gets you broadband Internet there.  If you’re wondering, Burundi is the most expensive, clocking in at $383.79/month.  The US averages $59.99/month.

Romania is the only European country to crack the top ten, costing only $7.57/month.  (Montenegro is the most expensive at $23.41/month).

There is more to the story than just reimplementation, however.  Building out broadband is a large, capital-intensive activity and the major broadband providers in the US (Comcast, CenturyLink, etc.) often are operating in sub-competitive environments.

For example, I live in Portland, Oregon, which is hardly central Alaska in terms of connectivity.  The options in my neighborhood are:

  • Comcast cable, topping out at 300mbps down/10mbps up
  • CenturyLink, which offers 7mbps down/1 mbps up

Technically this is competition, but not really.

The article quotes Dan Howdle, a British industry analyst, who observes:

It is interesting, however, that the cheapest broadband in the world tends to be in Eastern Europe and CIS nations. These countries tend to have some of the most advanced infrastructure (high full fiber FTTP coverage) and are somehow able to offer it to users at very low prices. In a way it obliterates the notion that regions such as Western Europe and North America pay more because of the cost of rolling out new technologies, and actually points more readily to the idea that people in these countries are made to pay more simply because they can be.


Thanks for LowEndTalk community member Maounique for alerting us to this article.  You might enjoy reading our interview with him.



  1. Maounique:

    In Romania we had all types of technologies, from dial-up which costed 10-20 wages if you were to stay online nonstop due to phone rates extremely expensive at the time. Also the lines were so poor you had disconnects every time to wind was blowing and the speed was at about 28800 in average.

    It is not the technology, generation, it is real competition and the fact that broadband in Romania is not the same as it is in the West. Here xADSL or cable are not considered broadband, not even 4G, albeit 5 G is somewhere at the limit. 300 mbps starts to be considered broadband.

    Another thing people miss is that upload is largely symmetric, rates of 10:1 and 7:1 are a blasphemy for the Romanian consumer. 2:1 might fly, though.

    March 26, 2023 @ 4:33 pm | Reply
  2. Camilo:

    >Portland, Oregon
    As someone from the “third world”, I don’t envy you. At least from the news I get, every single aspect of living there would be worse. The rent/housing, the crime, the food prices/quality, the politics, the education system, the internet plans, even! I have like 10 broadband options in my city. Well, the nature seems good, it is a pretty state. But so is California, so that isn’t telling much.

    April 1, 2023 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

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