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Traffic on broadband networks increased by 51% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to OpenVault.

The firm’s fourth quarter OVBI report included many validations of the impact of the pandemic on broadband usage. 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. That was an increase of 40%.

Pandemic Broadband Traffic

The impact of the pandemic accelerated during the second half of the year. OpenVault found that fourth quarter monthly average usage — 482.6 GB – represented a 26% increase compared to the third quarter monthly average of 383.8 GB.

Total broadband traffic also was driven by an increase in users. The report — OpenVault Broadband Insights – found a 6.5% increase in subscribers. The two trends – more people using more data — led to the 51% overall broadband traffic increase over the year.

Median monthly usage for the fourth quarter of 2020 was 293.8 GB, a 54% increase compared to the year-ago quarter’s 190.7 GB.

An interesting trend noted by OpenVault is that ebbs and flows in traffic mirrored pre-pandemic dynamics, just at a higher level.

Source: 4Q20 OVBI

Upstream usage also increased. During the fourth quarter, upstream usage averaged 31 GB per month, an increase of 63% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

The pandemic broadband traffic report also looked at power users:

  • 14.1% of subscribers consume more than 1 TB of data per month. That is a 94% rise – 61% in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone – from the fourth quarter 2019 average of 7.25%.
  • Extreme power users (who consume more than 2 TB per month) increased by 184% year over year, from 0.76% in 2019 to 2.2% at the end of last year. Similar to with those using 1 TB data, 120% of that increase occurred between the third and fourth quarters.
  • Providers offering unlimited, flat-rate billing packages had nearly 30% more power users than those with usage-based billing plans.
  • 53.6% of all subscribers now consume more than the former power user threshold of 250 GB per month.

OpenVault suggests that operators must proactively address the traffic increases. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was complete and has forever changed broadband usage patterns,” the pandemic broadband traffic report said. “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.”

In November, OpenVault released research on the great increase in power users. It found a 110% increase in power users who use 1 TB or more of data (to 8.8% overall), a 172% increase in extreme power users consuming 2 TB or more of data (to 1% overall) and an increase of 124% in gigabit subscribers (to 5.6% overall).

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