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Data: US upstream growth rate at 350% in pandemic

April 1, 2021

With business hours consumption leading the way, US broadband upstream traffic growth during 2020 was 350 per cent of historic rates, according to an OVBI Special Report issued by OpenVault, a source of SaaS-based revenue and network improvement solutions and data-driven insights for the broadband industry.

Upstream usage grew 63 per cent – from 19 GB to 31 GB – between December 2019 and December 2020, far outpacing the 18 per cent rate of increase for the upstream in each of the two prior years. The report also details how average upstream traffic during the 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. timeframe grew from 5.25 GB to 10.42 GB per subscriber per month as of December 2020, a 98.5 per cent increase, while per-subscriber monthly downstream consumption during the same period increased just 51.74 per cent, from 91.90GB to 139.45GB.

Additional findings include:
– Upstream growth in Q4 2020 was 24 per cent, a faster rate of increase than the 18 per cent growth rate for all of 2018 or 2019.
– The top 1 per cent of subscribers account for approximately 30 per cent of upstream usage, and the top 5 per cent of subscribers account for more than 50 per cent of upstream consumption.
– During peak hours, operators routinely face situations in which a single subscriber accounts for more than 80 per cent of available upstream capacity.

The report discusses a variety of remedies for relieving pressure on the upstream, ranging from mid-splits that can cost up to $35,000 per node to a more targeted approach implemented by mid-sized operators in the US. Faced with an increasing number of incidents in which upstream traffic exceeded 80 per cent of node capacity, operators are pinpointing bottlenecks, identifying subscribers who are impacting service, and applying automatic capacity management protocols.

“Pandemic lockdowns changed the nature of upstream usage – in all likelihood, forever,” the report notes. “Continued high levels of remote work and a new embrace of videoconferencing for communication needs mean that consumption will pressure the limited upstream capacity of many broadband infrastructures. Moreover, the unique role of the upstream as an enabler of two-way communication makes unfettered performance essential.”

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