The number of U.S. households active online during the work-day more than doubled since January, before COVID-19 reached emergency status, according to Plume, a company that specializes in Wi-Fi optimization technology. The number of households active online during the work-day in 14 key metro areas increased from 22.6 million in January to 46.2 million last week – a 105% increase. Usage seems to have plateaued, however, said Plume Chief Marketing Officer Todd Grantham in an interview with Telecompetitor about the COVID-19 home Wi-Fi usage research today.
“Over the last week or so, the numbers have settled in,” said Grantham.
Plume technology is in millions of homes. The study data was gathered from end users on an anonymized basis. A household was considered to be active online based on data from computers, smartphones and entertainment devices such as gaming devices and televisions.
COVID-19 Home Wi-Fi Usage
The 14 metro areas that Plume studied were: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay area, San Antonio, San Diego and Seattle.
While all markets saw an increase in work-day home Wi-Fi usage since COVID-19 became a national emergency, the percentage increase varies between markets. Not surprisingly, the areas with the greatest increase were the San Francisco Bay area (133%) and Seattle (126%) – two of the earliest markets to see major COVID-19 outbreaks. Three of the four markets with the lowest increase were in Texas, where the state left it up to local administrators to determine stay-at-home policies. Those markets are Austin (85%), Dallas (86%) and San Antonio (75%). The only market outside Texas that saw an increase below 90% was Jacksonville, at 73%.
The increase in home Wi-Fi usage during the work-day resulted, in large part, from increased computer usage, suggesting that a considerable amount of the increase was driven by people working at home who traditionally would have gone to an office or other location. Average household computer usage was 5.6 hours last week, up from 2.5 hours in January.
Wi-Fi usage by entertainment devices during the work-day also increased, but not to the same extent – growing from 2 hours in January to 2.8 hours last week. The jump may have resulted from children being at home during the pandemic or from people staying home who can’t work from home such as restaurant and certain retail employees.
Work-day home Wi-fi smartphone usage also was up – increasing from 2.3 hours in January to 4.1 hours last week.
The Big Picture
Plume’s findings are consistent with other telecom and broadband traffic data that has emerged since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
While entities as diverse as the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association have reported major increases in traffic, recent research from broadband measurement company OpenVault suggests that usage may have reached a plateau.