How is your broadband coping with Covid-19?

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We are witnessing a change in the use of broadband networks and service platforms on an unprecedented scale. As of March 20th, 2020, this is most evident in Europe but we are seeing the same trend elsewhere.

Social distancing measures have had an immediate impact on the way we live and work.

As most of us retreat to our homes, our broadband connections stay our main link to the world. The reliability and stability of these connections has never been more important. Today, if we lose our broadband connection, we are truly cut off.

The good news is that based on the first data we have seen, broadband connections and even most service platforms are showing very robust performance considering the dramatic change of use. This is thanks to telecom operators’ network architects and engineers that have designed those networks and platforms for resiliency. Let us remember them when we are working from home, receiving online education, or streaming the latest TV series this evening.

Of course, there are some occasional issues, but we can safely say that those are negligible, considering the dramatic scale and short timeframe of the usage change.

Based on insight coming from the Tessares Hybrid Internet Access platform, we can see two important trends after we began retreating to our homes:

  1. Peak traffic is only slightly up (~8%) 
  2. Workday usage pattern is significantly different and the average load during the day is up significantly with much more data being carried (~30%)

13.03.-20.03.2020. (first week of social distancing measures from 16.03.2020.)

28.02.- 06.03.2020. (normal week before social distancing measures)

This is good news since networks are dimensioned for peak traffic. Such modest increases in peak traffic after such a dramatic change in usage indicates that there should be no significant problems with our broadband connections. We see that the workday usage curve is much more similar to the “normal” weekend usage curve, which is understandable considering people are staying in their homes all day, but we can also see that working from home and distance learning are contributing to significant hikes in average traffic, but not to peak traffic.

Of course, individual service platforms like the ones we are using for collaboration (Microsoft Teams, Google Meet / Google Classroom etc.), or video streaming platforms might experience higher peak increases. There are plenty of measures to deal with that without major impact on functionality e.g. reducing video streaming quality: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-51968302.

There was a call for responsible use of the Internet in the EU issued from BEREC, which resulted in YouTube, Netflix and others reducing video streaming quality in the EU, but seeing only modest peak traffic increases, we consider this a precautionary measure, rather than a real issue for broadband networks.

At times like this, it is worth remembering that there are many households that lack decent broadband connections and we should all raise awareness of the need for a minimum universal broadband connection of 30Mbps for ALL rather than chasing Gbps speeds for the few, but this is topic for another post.

Author: Drazen Vitez

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