OpenVault: Covid-19 pandemic drives 51% spike in broadband traffic in 2020

OpenVault has stuck a fork in the increased broadband usage last year due to the pandemic with its latest report. The OpenVault Broadband Insights (OVBI) report found that Covid-19 drove a 51% increase in broadband traffic last year due in large part to remote learning and remote work.

OpenVault collects subscribers' usage behaviors and puts them into data sets. The latest OVBI report also found that per-subscriber average data usage for the fourth was 482.6 GB per month, which marked a 40% increase over the 344 GB consumed in the same quarter in 2019 and a 26% increase over the 3Q20 average of 383.8.

At the same time, broadband providers saw subscriber increases of 6.5%, creating a net effect of 51% more broadband traffic. Fourth quarter median usage increased 54% year-over-year to 293.8 GB per month from 190.7 GB in 2019.

Since March, the Covid-19 pandemic has driven an increase in broadband usage due to employees working from home and online learning, and, to a lesser extent, online gaming. With the larger home-based workloads, there has also been a marked increase in upstream usage during the pandemic.

The latest report noted the continued growth of upstream usage. In Q4, upstream consumption was 31 GB/month, an increase of 63% over same quarter in 2019. OpenVault's data showed that once average monthly usage spiked by almost 47% in April.

The pandemic has also spurred an increase in the number of broadband power users. According to the Q4 report, 14% of subscribers consumed more than 1 TB of data per month, which was a 94% increase from the fourth quarter 2019 average of 7.25%. In the most recent fourth quarter alone, 61% consumed more than 1 TB of data per month

Extreme power users, which OpenVault defined as users consuming more than 2 TB per month, increased by 184% year-over-year, from 0.76% in 2019 to 2.2% at the end of last year. Similar to the 1 TB data, 120% of that increase occurred between the third and fourth quarters of last year.

Service providers offering unlimited, flat-rate billing packages saw nearly 30% more power users than those with usage-based billing plans.

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More than half (53.6%) of all subscribers now consume more than the former power user threshold of 250 GB per month.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was complete and has forever changed broadband usage patterns,” according to the report. “Network operators now must contend with significantly higher average bandwidth usage, with implications for both network management and revenue. Network operators should evaluate all network management options to ensure they deliver the best customer experience while maximizing profitability.”