Virgin Media sees a 95% upstream traffic spike during daytime hours

There's no doubt that broadband subscribers' habits have changed during the coronavirus outbreak as more of them work from home. Virgin Media said the upstream traffic on its network has increased 95% during daytime hours largely due to home-bound employees uploading large files onto their corporate networks.

Virgin Media, which noted that its network has "ample" capacity to handle the increased upstream demand, said the upstream traffic dips around lunch time as remote workers take their lunch breaks and again at 5:30 p.m. when they log off for the day. Virgin Media has been investing in fiber to upgrade its broadband speeds across the areas that it serves, which, in addition to faster speeds, gives it plenty of upstream headroom.

"This traffic is increasing throughout the day and continuing into the evening, with peak upstream traffic up around 25% on the previous week, showing people are working later or joining conference calls with friends and family," Virgin Media said on its website. Upstream data spiked on Mothering Sunday this week due to home-bound families making video conference calls to loved ones.

While video conferencing services from companies such as Cisco Webex and Zoom have taken off during the coronavirus, those video conference calls take up less of the upstream than more bandwidth intensive applications such as 8K or Ultra HD 4K streaming.

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Ahead of the explosion of OTT video services and online gaming, cable operators started bonding their DOCSIS channels 10 years or so ago to increase their upstream speeds, but there are other factors weighing on the upstream as well, according to Cisco's Kevin Wollenweber, vice president of service provider networking.

Home security systems from companies such as Ring feature always on wireless cameras that are constantly sending information upstream. Cloud-based gaming and interactive gaming, such as Fortnite, also eat into upstream bandwidth, according to Wollenbweber.

"It's not extreme amounts of upstream bandwidth, but it's enough that some of the internet service providers have shown a spike," Wollenbweber said. "So although we're seeing an increase in the upstream, we haven't actually heard about that being an issue or concern of our customers at this point."