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How WhoFast.net Works

Internet distribution in Africa is not uniform. Mobile users continue to report conflicting stories around, how good or bad internet connectivity is for them. Furthermore, there is a general distrust for trying out new service providers. The last mile of sending the internet to a customer is a major challenge facing ISPs (Internet Service Providers), who wish to provide their customers universal access across different locations.

Personally, I have changed service providers at least four times in search for a better alternative. This is a painful process that leads to wasted funds, and in order to avoid such trial and error, I thought it would be super cool to build a service that allows people including myself know locations where network providers were performing best and worst. I imagined this service could help people make informed financial decisions around which network to subscribe to as students, workers, or travellers going to any particular destination.

Goals

The biggest challenge in building whofast.net was figuring out the most efficient way to aggregate internet speeds across multiple network providers in different locations.

It would be unsustainable to single-handedly subscribe to multiple ISPs as this would limit the number of locations that can be covered due to cost of purchasing and placing modems, and SIM cards across Africa.

Then crowdsourcing came to the rescue.

The idea was to provide a compelling speed test service that allowed people quickly check (under 10 seconds) their internet connection, in-turn they get to see the results of other people who tested their internet across different networks and locations.

Design

To provide this service, a user visits whofast.net website, enters their location, and starts a speed test session. Once the user completes their test, whofast.net shows them real-time results from other users who tested within a 6 kilometre radius of their reported location.

Architecture

Can I trust the speed test results?

Users considering switching to whofast.net typically compare the results from other speed test sites to whofast.net. From an algorithmic stand point, your browser downloads small chunks of an infinitely large data file, and the site records how much data was downloaded in a period of time to estimate internet speed in Megabytes per second.

A comparison with a popular speed test site

The variance in speed test results can be much higher depending on whether your ISP has routers closer to any given speed test server. For example, testing your internet against a server located in your country, could provide much higher results than testing against a more remote server.

Why does fast.com generally report higher download speeds?

Fast.com uses Netflix’s broad CDN (Content Distribution Network) to power its speed tests. The price you pay for this is that you can only measure, how good your experience will be on Netflix, and not necessarily your experience on other internet apps who do not have the same content distribution ubiquity as Netflix.

Whofast.net uses multiple servers in Europe to provide a fair estimation of internet speed across multiple websites.

Features

  1. Test your internet speed to know if your network provider is delivering on its promise.
  2. Find out how your internet compares to other networks in your area.
  3. Virtually travel to other destinations with your mobile network without leaving the comfort of your home, to see internet speed results in places you care about.
  4. Screenshot and share your speed test result directly with your internet provider on Twitter to praise or lodge a complaint.

Interesting facts discovered in 30 days

  1. Some networks performed best in remote areas than in cities.
  2. Over 6,000 measurements were recorded in 1 month, soon to be more.
  3. Within 7 days whofast.net covered over 143 networks, across several African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and many others.
  4. Internet speeds by country can be viewed here at the WhoFast Africa Fact Sheet

Whofast.net is part of the broader Play Data Africa initiative who’s mission is to build communities and technologies that help people navigate Africa more efficiently.

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