Average broadband consumption at the end of the first quarter rose to 402.5GB, an increase of 47% compared to the first quarter 2019’s average of 273.5 GB and a 17 percent rise over the 344 GB in the fourth quarter of last year, according to OpenVault.
The firm says that the current pandemic is driving broadband use almost a year ahead of pre-pandemic expectations. Early in the year, the firm had projected average consumption of 425 GB by the end of 2020. Now, OpenVault says that last month’s usage will exceed 460 GB.
A look within the numbers reveals that the biggest gains were made by power users and extreme power users. These are subscribers who use 1 TB or more and 2 TB or more, respectively. Power users reached 10% of all users during the first quarter, a 138% increase over the 4.2% who were power users in the year-ago quarter. Extreme power uses were 1.2% of all users last quarter, a 215% increase over the 0.38% who reached that level during the first quarter of last year. The firm initially projected power and extreme power user levels of 12% and 1.4% respectively by year-end 2020.
“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 says. “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 behavior and plan their network performance capabilities accordingly.”
Pandemic Broadband Use
Other key findings in the report:
- 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% during the first quarter. FRB growth was 44.42%.
- Median usage, a leading indicator of usage growth across all subscribers, rose sharply. Median usage was 233.6 GB, a 60% increase from 146.0 GB during the first quarter of 2019 and up 22% from 190.7 GB at the end of 2019. Importantly, the rate of increase in media growth accelerated to 122% 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 leading subscribers to increase to faster speeds.
Easter provided a good example of how quickly broadband is exploding. OpenVault said that on the holiday – April 12 – downstream consumption was 16.3 GB per subscribers, a 15.8% increase over the previous Sunday.