Upstream internet traffic saw a big jump amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from OpenVault. The pandemic upstream internet traffic growth rate was 350% of historic rates last year, a bigger jump than what was seen on the downstream side.

OpenVault reported that upstream usage grew 63% – from 19 GB to 31 GB — between December 2019 and December 2020. The upstream increase was only 18% during each of the previous two years.

Average upstream traffic grew from 5.25 GB to 10.42 GB per subscriber per month during the 9 AM to 5 PM timeframe. This represented a 98.5% increase per subscriber. Per subscriber monthly downstream consumption increased from 91.90 GB to 139.45 GB, a more modest 51.74% rate of increase.

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Other takeaways from the OpenVault report, which is entitled “Pandemic Impact on Upstream Broadband Usage and Network Capacity”:

  • Upstream growth in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 24% over the previous quarter, a faster rate than the 18% growth rate for all of 2018 or 2019.
  • The top 1% of subscribers account for approximately 30% of upstream usage and the top 5% of subscribers account for more than 50% of upstream consumption.
  • During peak hours, operators routinely face scenarios in which a single subscriber uses more than 80% of available upstream capacity.

“Pandemic lockdowns changed the nature of upstream usage – in all likelihood, forever,” according to commentary in the pandemic upstream internet traffic report. “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.”

Last August, OpenVault found that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased upstream traffic 5.3% between the ends of the first and second quarter of the year. In March, Comcast reported that in 2020 some of its markets saw peak upstream traffic increases of about 56% over 2019.

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