With a surge in usage due to COVID-19, networks are fine, for now: Nokia Deepfield

By most accounts, internet networks are holding up just fine in the face of increased usage due to the impact of the coronavirus, but that could change over the coming weeks.

According to research by Nokia Deepfield that started the week of March 9, networks have seen an increase of 20% to 40% during peak usage in impacted regions. As the coronavirus has stretched across the globe, networks have seen increased usage due to total lock downs of citizens in some countries, more employees working from home and increased gaming and streaming by kids home from school.

Craig Labovitz, chief technology officer for Nokia Deepfield, said in an interview with FierceTelecom that service providers typically see network growth of 35% to 45% per year. While the proverbial light is not yet blinking red, it could be over the coming weeks. Labovitz said Spain has seen a 40% increase in peak usage over the past few weeks, while the impact in the U.S. has been evident in a 29% increase over the previous two weeks.

"Generally, we've seen the networks behave fairly well in that the networks were built over the last five years or so to peak when everyone's at home watching movies in the evening," Labovitz said. "I think that's a real testament to the upgrades and the investments.

"With that said, the real question is we did see 40% growth over last week in some places: what will this will look like next week?  We've never seen this volume of network-wide growth before so we don't have a lot of data points. And what the real question is, what does this look like growth-wise week after week?"

As Labovitz noted, service providers of all stripes are constantly planning and building out their networks due to increased bandwidth demands from services such as 8K streaming, gaming and, eventually, virtual reality. (In some instances, gaming is currently up 400% to 500%, according to Labovitz.) With no one knowing for certain when students are going back to school, or when employees will return to their work locations, that network capacity planning is taking on added meaning these days.

In a blog post on Friday in regards to traffic usage in Western Europe, Labovitz said that for now, content delivery networks (CDNs) seem to have enough headroom to handle the increased traffic loads. The most stress is occurring on the aggregation networks and service edge routers where the demand may be pushing into capacity maximums.

While the impact of the coronavirus may be easing up on places such as China, it appears to be ramping up in the U.S. and other countries.

Traditionally, networks were built to meet peak demands during certain time periods, such as the Super Bowl, Mother's Day or streaming periods on Sunday nights, but now Nokia Deepfield is also seeing "unprecedented growth" in latency-sensitive applications during business hours.

"So we are concerned about what the growth trend will look like over the coming weeks," Labovitz said. "We do have many of our customers looking at what investments they need to make to continue to stay ahead of what could be weeks and months of increased growth curves."

About those networks

Labovitz said telco and cable networks are currently able to handle the increased loads of network traffic due to network upgrades and expansions over the past five or six years.

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Those upgrades have included more fiber and IP-based networks, moving services and applications from national locations closer to data centers at the edge of major cities and setting up CDNs closer to the edge.

Labovitz also noted that the major cloud service providers now have points-of-presence and on ramps closer to users instead of hundreds of miles away, which results in fewer hops and lower latency.

"I think the network growth the last five or six years of investment to move large traffic volumes, particularly video, to the edge has been fairly successful," Labovitz said. "In the U.S., for example, more of the country is undergoing lockdown. Now all sorts of business practices and habits could change. I think we are seeing a lot of interest in what happens on the consumer edge of the network. You start to see households upgrading their (internet) plans and more prolonged internet usage on the edge."

About Nokia Deepfield

In 2011, Deepfield was launched as a startup company that analyzed big data from the cloud to help content providers and carriers make more informed network decisions. In 2016, Deepfield became a part of Nokia.

Today, Nokia Deepfield has close to 50 deployments worldwide, including service providers, hyperscale and webscale companies, and digital enterprises. While Nokia Deepfield has racked up customers, most of them haven't been announced, although it did announce that Telefónica Spain was one of its customers last year.

RELATED: Telefónica Spain boosts network visibility and automation with Nokia

Nokia Deepfield is a specialist in real-time analytics for IP network performance management and security. With Deepfield Cloud, service provider engineers have visibility into application demand and fluctuating traffic patterns by supporting advanced IP network engineering and assurance uses with automation.

"Nokia Deepfield provides deep insights into the IP router-based infrastructure," Labovitz said in a follow up email to FierceTelecom. "Our core input is BGP and router telemetry data, enhanced by DNS info. We can also process augmented data sets, for example, RADIUS account data. We correlate information from a network with our Deepfield Genome data feeds.

"We can deploy Nokia Deepfield on-premise, in the network, on dedicated servers, or we can run Deepfield applications in the cloud for the software-as-a-service model with secure feeds from the network into the cloud."