Global Internet Traffic at Home Spikes Amid Coronavirus Lockdown

With people across the globe confined to working from home, internet traffic has increased manifold recently.

Published
Tech News
3 min read
Internet traffic has seen a spike owing to people being confined to their houses.
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As the coronavirus pandemic forces more people to stay indoors, they have no choice but to rely on their home internet connection for personal as well as work use.

This has taken a heavy toll on the internet bandwidth for the providers, forcing them to take extreme measures, which includes asking video-streaming platforms to lower the bitrate of their content for the users.

So how much has this affected the internet traffic, and does that leave us with the possibility of an internet meltdown? We spoke to companies that track internet traffic across the world to find out. Cloudflare highlighted the internet traffic was fairly flat until about late February, after which it started growing and currently you’re looking at an increase of about 20 percent.

In fact, places in Italy that have been severely hit by the coronavirus have seen a 20-40 percent increase in daily traffic since the lockdown.

Opensignal, which is another company tracking internet usage patterns pointed out they’ve seen growth in traffic from residential broadband networks, and a slowing of traffic from businesses and universities, which hardly a surprising trend to note.

The lockdown is also making its impact felt in India, where Cloudflare has witnessed a sudden jump in the internet traffic, which is seen as the reason behind frequent downtime for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) over the past few days.

Internet usage in India increased after 15 March. 
Internet usage in India increased after 15 March. 
(Photo: Cloudflare)
“Traffic towards video conferencing, streaming services and news and e-commerce websites has surged.”
John Graham-Cumming, CTO, Cloudflare

In fact, speed-testing platforms like Ookla mentioned around 16 March, India’s fixed broadband, as well as mobile test volume, showed a large percentage increase. They also pointed out even though India doesn’t have the fastest internet speeds in the world, its usage density could affect performance for the consumers.

Look the sudden increase in number of tests in India. 
Look the sudden increase in number of tests in India. 
(Photo: Ookla) 
“On 16 March, we saw the most tests taken in a single day in Ookla’s history. That record has been easily surpassed day over day, with Tuesday’s record beating Monday’s and so on. A record number of tests have been taken with Ookla’s Speedtest in the weeks since many people around the world began to self-quarantine, signalling to us that there is a heightened interest in internet connectivity and performance.”
Adriane Blum, Head - Communications, Ookla 

The sudden growth was also confirmed by Excitel which is one of the broadband service providers in the country. The company said India’s existing infrastructure isn’t ready to support high data usage on a home network.

“There has been an exponential growth in the home data usage patterns and the consumption is shifting heavily towards video and gaming. And wireline broadband service providers on the legacy networks and mobile service providers are facing a huge strain on their networks as their infra is not designed to cater to high data consumption needs of home broadband users.”
Vivek Raina,Co-Founder and CEO, Excitel Broadband

All Hands on Deck

No wonder the internet players were asking streaming platforms to go easy on their video resolutions. The need to preserve data is so urgent that even Microsoft and Google are pausing their set of software updates for users.

Video-conferencing has also become the go-to mode for professionals to have their business meetings. More importantly, the gaming segment is also getting a fair amount of attention, with Microsoft and Sony using Akamai ‘s help to manage congestion during peak usage periods.

“This is very important for gaming software downloads which account for large amounts of internet traffic when an update is released – a software update for a modern game generates an amount of traffic roughly equal to 30,000 web pages.”
Tom Leighton, CEO and Co-Founder, Akamai

These measures are likely to make sure that users get uninterrupted internet connectivity over the next few months as people stay indoors.

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