Comcast reported that the COVID-19 pandemic drove its peak Internet traffic up 32% in 2020. The company says that investments made during the previous three years positioned it to weather the storm.
The signs of a singular year were plentiful. Comcast said that some markets saw peak increases of 50% in March. Compared to 2019, peak downstream traffic increased approximately 38% and peak upstream traffic increased approximately 56%. In a span of 4 months, Comcast experienced almost 2 years-worth of traffic growth.
The service provider said that online gaming and related software downloads increased 10% and web browsing increased 8%. There were more than a trillion Internet requests (DNS lookups) made each day.
Other data points were qualitative and illustrated the nature of the traffic. For instance, traffic remained highly asymmetrical with downstream traffic volumes 14x higher than upstream traffic volumes.
Despite increases in videoconferencing activity, entertainment continued to dominate: Video streaming accounted for 71% of downstream traffic, a 70% increase over 2019. Despite a videoconferencing boom, videoconferencing traffic accounted for less than 5% of network usage.
Comcast pointed to the investments made from 2017 to 2020. It spent more than $15 billion overall, built 39,153 route miles of fiber, augmented the entire distribution chain and used artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect and prevent problems. The company accelerated the Comcast Octave software program, which enabled upstream capacity to be boosted by 36%.
“The Internet was a bright spot during the darkest hours of 2020, keeping hundreds of millions of people connected to work, school, entertainment, and most importantly, each other,” Tony Werner, the President of Technology, Product, Xperience at Comcast Cable said in a press release about Comcast COVID-19 internet traffic. “We’re proud of the years of strategic investment and innovation that enabled us to build the foundation of a high-speed, intelligent network designed to scale to the needs of our most demanding users, and also adapt to unexpected events.”
Earlier this month, OpenVault reported that traffic on broadband networks increased by 51%. The firm found that average per-subscriber usage increased from 344 GB during the fourth quarter of 2019 to 482.6 GB per month during the fourth quarter of 2020. an increase of 40%.