COVID-19 broadband usage starts to plateau—OpenVault

Broadband usage in areas that have been under quarantine policies due to COVID-19 may have reached their peak, according to OpenVault. OpenVault, which collects cable subscribers' usage behaviors and puts them into data sets, said on Tuesday that rapid growth levels in those areas were starting to taper off.

After three weeks of double-digit percentage growth, the total downstream data usage in markets with shelter-at-home policies declined almost 6% during the week of March 30–April 3 when compared to the previous week. Total upstream usage continued to growth during the same timeframe, but was up just 2.3% compared to the previous week.

Overall data usage growth in the quarantined markets was 33.1%, when measured against OpenVault’s January 2020 usage benchmarks. With millions of employees now working from home, along with students that are also home bound, the average daily downstream consumption during the 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. business hours in the last week was 6.35 GB, which was 42.46% higher than the January level of 4.46 GB.

With employees sending large files from home, the average daily business hour upstream usage rose 82.5% from January through April 3, from 0.215 GB to 0.392 GB.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, peak usage times typically took place in the evenings, but now peak usage times are longer across the board. While the highest data usage growth has occurred during the 9-to-5 business hours, operators have still experienced significant growth during the 6 p.m.-to-12 p.m. peak hours. The peak hours for downstream consumption increased by 21.15% from January, while upstream usage rose 36%.

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Overall, daily usage grew from 12.19 GB in January to 16.22 GB through April 3, indicating a new monthly run rate of more than 480 GB per subscriber during the current crisis, according to OpenVault.

Areas that have not yet experienced the restrictive policies have shown significantly less broadband growth, but could experience additional increases as the coronavirus spreads. Using the same January through April 3 timeframe, OpenVault data shows that average daily data consumption in less impacted markets is up 38.2% during the 9-to-5 weekday hours, while peak hour usage has risen just 8% per day since January.

 “It’s too early to say that the industry has weathered the storm of additional usage, but signs point to the greatest surge of growth by far as being behind us,” said Mark Trudeau, CEO and founder of OpenVault, in a statement. “Operators will need to keep close eyes on any incremental increases – particularly during peak hours and in the upstream – as well as the impact of new quarantines in additional markets, but their networks seem in the meantime to be well-prepared to handle this increased data consumption.”