Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are used all over the world to provide people with encrypted connections to the internet. The encryption hides user activity from prying eyes so that you can browse the web with improved privacy. What’s more, a VPN can replace your real IP address with one from another region, enabling you to access content that would otherwise be blocked.
While these are some of the main reasons for using VPNs, we wanted to delve into the data to discover more about who is using VPNs, how popular these services are, and exactly why people are using them. We were also keen to discover how VPN trends are changing and the different VPN landscapes in various regions.
In this post, you’ll find plenty of the most recent facts and statistics to provide an overview of VPN use across the globe.
See also: Cyber security statistics and facts
1. The global VPN market will reach over $50 billion by 2024
A 2019 report by Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence LLP predicts that the VPN market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.39 percent over the next five years. In 2018, the market was worth around $34.6 billion, so at this rate, it will reach more than $50 billion by 2024. The report cites cybersecurity issues as the main reason for the growing demand.
2. Global interest in VPNs continues to increase
There has long been interest in VPNs across the globe and, according to Google Trends, it continues to increase. The chart below shows the global popularity of the search term “vpn”, which rose steadily over the past 10 years.
Interestingly, in the US, the popularity of the term has remained fairly steady (albeit quite high) during the same period.
3. Internet freedom in Asia hit a low in 2019
According to Freedom House, Asian countries fared very poorly in terms of internet freedom in 2019. China was the least free with a score of just 12 out of 100 (this has now dropped further to 10). Vietnam was better, but not great, with a score of 24/100.
You can compare this to countries that are considered “free,” such as Canada with a score of 87 and Iceland with a score of 95.
4. The Asia Pacific region has the highest rate of VPN use
According to a Q4 2018 report by GlobalWebIndex (GWI), the rate of people who used a VPN at least once in a one-month period in Asia Pacific was 34 percent. It makes sense that this region has the highest prevalence of VPN use given the previous statistics regarding internet freedom.
The Middle East and Africa tied for first place, where 34 percent of people surveyed used a VPN, followed by Latin America with 30 percent.
The country with the highest use rate was Indonesia (55 percent) followed by India (43 percent) and the UAE (38 percent).
5. VPN users favor PCs and laptops but only slightly
The GWI study also revealed which devices VPN users are connecting with. 72 percent of VPN users utilize a desktop client. Smartphones are almost as popular with 69 percent of VPN users connecting on these devices each month. Tablets remain the least popular device for VPN use with 33 percent of users employing a VPN.
When it comes to frequency of use, it’s mobile users who are slightly more active on the VPN front. 32 percent use VPNs every day or nearly every day, compared to 29 percent of desktop users.
6. Men are more likely to use VPNs than women
GWI reports that more than a third (34 percent) of males surveyed use VPNs, while only one-quarter of women subscribe to these services.
If you’re wondering about the age of VPN users, GWI has that covered too. Prevalence is greatest in the 16–24 and 25–34 age ranges, with a 74 percent and 67 percent use rate, respectively. This drops down to 45 percent in people aged 35–44 and 28 percent for both the 45–54 and 55–64 age ranges.
7. More than half of VPN users are looking for better entertainment
Another key component of the GWI study found that 51 percent of users are connecting to VPNs so they can gain access to entertainment content that wouldn’t otherwise be available. For example, Netflix serves different content depending on your location. By changing your IP address with a VPN you can access a different library of shows and movies.
When organized by country, accessing entertainment was the most popular use for a VPN in 32 out of 41 countries, including the US, China, and Australia.
8. You need at least 5 Mbps for streaming HD video
Many VPN users worry that diminished speeds will make for a poor streaming experience. However, as per Netflix’s recommendation, you don’t have to have blazing fast speeds for streaming.
In fact, anything above 5Mbps should be okay for HD streaming. That said, if you’re looking to stream Ultra HD, you’ll need at least a 25 Mbps connection. And let’s face it, in general, faster is better in terms of overall internet experience, so users still need to look out for VPNs that offer great speeds.
9. More than one-third of users want to access blocked social and news sites
According to GWI, users cited other major reasons they use VPNs. More than one-third employ a VPN to access news sites and social networks. This includes circumventing blocks put in place by governments, for example, in China.
Another top reason was maintaining anonymity while browsing the web (34 percent of users worldwide). This was the main reason for VPN use in eight out of 41 countries (including Canada and several European countries). Other major reasons for VPN use included access to blocked sites and services while at work (30 percent), and access to torrent sites (30 percent).
10. Almost two-thirds of VPN users are concerned about how companies use their personal data
GWI found that 64 of VPN users worry about how their personal data is used. That said, this figure is not that different from non-users of VPNs, of which 60 percent are concerned. Similarly, concern about the internet threatening personal privacy is strong among both VPN users (62 percent) and non-users (60 percent).
11. 80 percent of global citizens are concerned about their online privacy
The CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey Internet Security & Trust surveyed a smaller set of people than GWI, but they found the rate of concern was higher. Eight in 10 respondents said they were concerned about online privacy, and the majority said that they were more worried than in the previous year. Egypt and Hong Kong have the highest rate of concern, with most citizens (96 percent in both regions) expressing online privacy concerns.
12. More than half of users are very worried about cybercriminals
According to CIGI-Ipsos, the most prominent concern among users is cybercriminals, with 55 percent very concerned and a further 26 percent somewhat concerned. Other privacy threats that people worry about include internet companies (74 percent), other internet users (71 percent), and their own government (66 percent).
13. VPNs are banned or restricted in 10 countries
The governments of several countries do not take kindly to VPN usage, often because they want to prevent their citizens from bypassing censorship. VPN use is currently outlawed or restricted in several countries: Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the UAE.