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 learn about 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 $107.5 billion by 2027
The Virtual Private Network (VPN) – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics predicts that the VPN market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.2 percent over the next six years. After seeing above-average growth in 2020, it is on track to reach more than $107.5 billion by 2027. This is a sharp increase over a previous estimate by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. of $88 billion by 2027.
2. VPN usage shot to a high of 27.1% in 2020
The main reason for the estimate change was the steep increase in VPN usage in 2020. Unprecedented growth of over 27 percent was observed, almost 10 percentage points higher than the CAGR of around 17 percent. Much of this was due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some key statistics surrounding the shift to remote working include:
- 88 percent of IT companies migrated to work-from-home (WFH) schemes.
- 92 percent of Asia-Pacific teams implemented WFH programs.
- 72 percent of companies plan to make the WFH shift permanent.
- More than 70 percent plan to permanently shift 35 percent of the workforce to WFH positions.
A MalwareBytes survey in January if 2021 found that of 2,300+ participants, 36% said that they used a VPN, with 58% saying that they knew what a VPN was, even if they didn’t use one. We can expect this to be a little higher than normal, though, as those who read the MalwareBytes blog are likely to be more security-conscious than the average web user.
3. The rise of remote working sparks surge in VPN usage
Indeed, several major VPN providers reported huge influxes of users during the first half of 2020. This can almost certainly be attributed to the increasing popularity of remote working. According to NordVPN’s network analysis, in March 2020 users were connected to their VPN for several more hours each day than before.
4. Italy saw a 175% spike in VPN usage in March 2020
At the height of the early stages of the pandemic, some of the worst-hit regions saw large increases in the rate of VPN usage. Italy was the highest with a 175.2% increase, but other regions including USA (132.5 percent), Spain (62.1 percent), Germany (48.4 percent), Iran (51.9 percent), and France (47.4 percent) saw large spurts too.
5. 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. Note that interest hit its highest ever level in May of 2020, just as working from home started to become the norm.
6. Only 15 out of 65 countries assessed by Freedom House are considered “free”
Freedom House assesses 65 countries around the world and assigns them an Internet Freedom Score. Criteria cover obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. Only 15 of the countries assessed are considered free. High scorers include Iceland (95), Estonia (94), and Canada (87). 28 countries are labeled partly free, and 22 are considered not free. China has the lowest overall score of 10, with Iran and Syria not too far ahead with 15 and 17 points, respectively.
7. The Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific regions have the highest rate of VPN use
According to a 2020 report1 by GlobalWebIndex (GWI), the rate of people who used a VPN at least once in a one-month period in Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa was 35 percent. It makes sense that these regions have the highest prevalence of VPN use given the level of internet freedom in many countries is low.
Latin America was in third place where 31 percent of people surveyed used a VPN, followed by North America and Europe with 25 percent and 24 percent respectively.
The country with the highest use rate was Indonesia (61 percent) followed by India (45 percent) and the UAE (42 percent). The country with the highest growth rate in VPN usage since the last study (conducted in 2017) was the Netherlands.
8. VPN users favor mobile devices but only slightly
The GWI report also revealed which devices VPN users are connecting with. In the US and UK, 62 percent of VPN users utilize a desktop client. Smartphones are slightly more popular with 64 percent of VPN users connecting on these devices each month. Just eight percent of users install a VPN on their router.
When it comes to frequency of use, in the US and UK, 41 percent use a VPN at least once per week and 36 per cent use one every day or nearly every day. Only 13 percent use a VPN less than once per month and 10 percent connect to one less often than that.
9. Men are more likely to use VPNs than women
GWI reports that more than a third (36 percent) of males surveyed use VPNs, while only around one-quarter of women (26 percent) subscribe to these services.
If you’re wondering about the age of VPN users, GWI has that covered too. Prevalence is greatest in the 16–22 and 23–37 age ranges, with a 39 percent and 36 percent use rate, respectively. This drops down to 25 percent in people aged 35–44 and 16 percent for both the 38–55 and 56–64 age ranges.
10. More than half of VPN users are looking for improved privacy
Another key component of the GWI study found that 51 percent of users in the US and UK are connecting to VPNs so they can enjoy better privacy on public wifi networks. Meanwhile, 44 percent want to browse the web anonymously, 37 percent are looking to communicate more securely, and 23 percent want to access restricted torrent, streaming, or download sites.
11. More than one-fifth of users want to access blocked entertainment sites
According to GWI, more than 22 percent of US and UK VPN users are seeking access to entertainment content that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
For example, Netflix serves different content depending on your location. By using a VPN to change your IP address you can access a different library of shows and movies.
Other popular reasons for using a VPN include accessing blocked websites, files, and services when at work (22 percent) and avoiding bandwidth throttling (21 percent).
12. 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.
13. 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).
14. 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.
15. 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).
16. 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.
1 Global VPN Usage Report 2020. An exploration of VPNs and their users around the world. Co-branded report 2020. Top10VPN | GlobalWebIndex. https://www.top10vpn.com/assets/2020/03/Top10VPN-GWI-Global-VPN-Usage-Report-2020.pdf