Report: Pandemic drove 51% rise in broadband traffic in 2020

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Traffic on US broadband networks rose by more than half and average broadband usage approached one-half a terabyte at the end of 2020, according to the Q4 2020 OpenVault Broadband Insights (OVBI) report issued by OpenVault, a source of SaaS-based revenue and network improvement solutions and data-driven insights for the broadband industry.

Per-subscriber average data usage for Q420 was 482.6 GB per month, a 40 per cent increase over the 344 GB consumed in Q419 and a 26 per cent increase over the Q420 average of 383.8. At the same time, broadband providers saw subscriber increases of 6.5 per cent, creating a net effect of 51 per cent more broadband traffic. Q420 median usage rose 54 per cent year-over-year, to 293.8 GB per month from 190.7 GB in 2019.

In addition to record growth, the Q420 OVBI also shows general trends that became evident during the pandemic. OpenVault data shows that once average monthly usage jumped almost 47 per cent in April of 2020, trend lines of rising and falling usage almost uniformly followed pre-pandemic norms, albeit at this new, higher level. The report also shows the continued growth of upstream usage; in Q420, upstream consumption was 31 GB/month, an increase of 63 per cent over Q419.

The Q420 report also spotlights the continued effects of power users on broadband networks. Among the most recent data:

  • 14.1 per cent of subscribers now consume more than 1TB of data per month. That represents a 94 per cent rise – 61 per cent in Q420 alone – from the Q419 average of 7.25 per cent.
  • Extreme power users, those consuming more than 2 TB per month, increased by 184 per cent year over year, from 0.76 per cent in 2019 to 2.2 per cent at the end of last year. Similar to the 1 TB data, 120 per cent of that increase occurred between Q320 and Q420.
  • Providers offering unlimited, flat-rate billing packages saw nearly 30 per cent more power users than those with usage-based billing plans.
  • More than half (53.6 per cent) 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,” the report notes. “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.”


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