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Report: Pandemic drives broadband usage up 47%

May 5, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated anticipated broadband consumption trends by almost one year and has exponentially increased the number of >1TB/2TB ‘power users’, according to the Q1 2020 OVBI (OpenVault Broadband Insights) report from broadband technology solutions and industry analytics provider OpenVault.

Driven primarily by subscriber self-quarantines during March, average consumption at the end of Q120 jumped to 402.5 GB, an increase of 47 per cent over the Q119 average of 273.5 GB and a 17 per cent rise over the 344.0 GB in Q419. Based on its decade-long analysis of broadband usage patterns, OpenVault had projected early this year that average consumption would reach 425 GB by the end of 2020; according to OpenVault average monthly usage for April 2020 is on track to exceed 460 GB.

The areas of sharpest growth during Q120 were power users of 1 TB or more and extreme power users of 2 TB or more. The percentage of subscribers who were power users in Q120 reached 10.0 per cent, an increase of 138 per cent over the 4.2 per cent of power users in Q119. Extreme power users represented 1.2 per cent of all subscribers, up 215 per cent from Q119’s 0.38 per cent. OpenVault had projected early this year that by the end of 2020 power users and extreme power users would represent 12 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively, of all subscribers.

“Nearly all the growth in broadband usage we would have expected for 2020 has now been achieved in the first quarter, with much of it concentrated in the last two weeks of the quarter,” the report states. “The Covid-19 pandemic changed broadband usage patterns in substantial ways, perhaps permanently. Broadband operators will need to understand the implications of this shifting broadband usage behaviour and plan their network performance capabilities accordingly.”

Other findings include:

  • With broadband quotas relaxed during much of March, the typical pattern of flat rate billing (FRB) usage outgrowing consumption by subscribers on usage based billing (UBB) plans was reversed: Subscriber usage with relaxed UBB packages grew by 49.05 per cent in Q120, while FRB growth was 44.42 per cent.
  • Median usage, a leading indicator of usage growth across all subscribers, was up sharply. Median usage across UBB and FRB plans was 233.6 GB, up 60 per cent from 146.0 GB in Q119 and up 22 per cent from 190.7 GB at the end of 2019. Importantly, the rate of increase in media growth accelerated to 122 per cent during the first quarter of 2020.
  • Upstream usage rose sharply during March, “as more people work from home and use collaboration tools such as videoconferencing”.
  • Increased usage is nudging subscribers toward faster speeds. The percentage of subscribers provisioned for gigabit-speed service increased 97 per cent to 3.75 per cent in Q120 year-over-year from Q119’s 1.9 per cent and was up 34 per cent from the 2.8 per cent at the end of 2019.

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