How is COVID-19 impacting internet traffic and user’s behaviour on network usage?

Coronavirus disease, a novel virus abbreviated as COVID-19 boomed this year and changed the way people used to live and work. Since then, people are relying on the Internet to connect with their loved ones, watch high-definition (HD) videos, play games online amid lockdown. Businesses too are adapting to remote working without bringing their critical business processes/functions into a standstill mode.

The rise in the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly led to the disruption in the telecom industry as the demand for Internet and online services has skyrocketed in this crisis. As per Cloudfare, a US-based networking services company, the surge in Internet usage between January to mid-March was around 25%. Abiding the social distancing norm issued by the government, telcos are under huge pressure to continue providing critical infrastructure and services in this distressing situation.

Internet speed across the globe

A quick glance at the recent changes in mobile telecommunication network usage across the world will give you an idea of how are people availing the Internet i.e. the mobile data and broadband network to comply with the stay-at-home norms.

  • California’s daily internet traffic increased by 20% since April 2020 which is above the baseline of an average of 30% that used to be during February.
  • Mobile download speed increased in Trinidad and Tobago, Iraq and HongKong by 87%, 60%, and 47% respectively.
  • Germany, a European country experienced a change of +8% in the mobile network speed.

However, there are still many countries, for example, nations located in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have the proper mobile network infrastructure. About 60% of the total population including rural and urban areas out there are unaware of the fact that 4G networks do exist. Even today 2G is considered as the mobile network standard in countries such as Indonesia. To not leave them behind, governments and telecom operators need to address these critical situations to provide people with Internet connectivity during this coronavirus outbreak.

Strengthening Connectivity to Connect the Unconnected

Countries are taking various initiatives to enhance the connectivity with the upgradation of internet capacity across the globe. In the wake of the unprecedented COVID-19, telcos are expanding bandwidth to handle data overload/congestion for transmission of data packets from one endpoint to another. As an urgent requirement, change in network configuration, inflation in the infrastructure coverage area to give access to small businesses, households, institutions, traffic management will be the focus of telecom operators for some time now. Further, cost-effective network deployment will be implemented as they plan to leverage infrastructure sharing for mass scaling of broadband networks and establish the foundation of the digital economy. Monitoring of networks through cell tower monitoring can be a feasible option that can lead them to achieve their optimal networking goals easily.

With everything getting interlinked, technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) have been the focus for the technologists to deploy it for more advantages. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are moving forward with the IoT approach to monitoring cell tower sites that will help in resolving customer complaints and proactively investigate the high ARPU cell towers.

In the smartphone era, people have become more tech-savvy and like to be digitally connected to fulfil their demands. From calling to surfing the Internet, watching videos to shopping online, working from home to conducting webinars, all of these are surging with heavy data load on the network cables. Internet traffic has been unpredictable ever since the announcement of lockdown. It is demanding for high bandwidth with every passing day. Data centres and telco providers are ensuring that they have additional systems in place that can manage future bandwidth requirements. On the other hand, they have taken the lead by eliminating data caps along with low-cost landline packages. Apart from this, they are tailoring offerings on 2g/3G/4GLTE/5G connections to retain their customers and provide them a seamless network with good Quality of Experience (QoE).

Demand for Quality of Experience (QoE) in this crisis

QoE expectation on network by users has gone up and service providers need to ensure these demands are met. Telecom operators are performing various network testing to deliver QoE to their subscribers/users. Though this crisis has limited the number of additions, retaining existing customers is a high priority task to achieve their significant returns. Solutions like Cell tower monitoring and QoE monitoring can help them bridge the gap as they get a better understanding of customer behaviour and their mobile devices with the wireless network. Advancement in new-age technologies like 5G is being deployed to further upgrade the internet speed bringing a new revolution in cellular technologies with services like Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), enhanced Mobile Broadband connections (eMBB).

Being in the technological world, MNOs are applying next-gen digital processes to test the signal, network bandwidth, and collect data to gauge experience in network and trends of network usage across devices. Unexpected situations like COVID-19 may arise in the near future too, causing huge disruption in the telecommunication networks and surge in Internet capacity i.e. download and upload speed. It’s high time for the telecommunication sector comprising telecom operators, vendors, etc. to be prepared and amplify their network resiliency as well as reliability for its customers while combating the battle against this deadly virus. Strategic networking and testing decisions can pave the way to emerge and boost the internet speed in the current and post-COVID world and assist the people to live in an interconnected world.

References:

https://www.fastly.com/blog/how-covid-19-is-affecting-internet-performance

https://thenewstack.io/the-network-impact-of-the-global-covid-19-pandemic/

https://www.ncta.com/COVIDdashboard

https://www.vxchnge.com/blog/bandwidth-covid19

https://blogs.akamai.com/sitr/2020/04/parts-of-a-whole-effect-of-covid-19-on-us-internet-traffic.html

https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/6/21168463/coronavirus-covid19-seattle-public-schools-networks-broadband

https://www.gsma.com/membership/resources/tracking-covid-19s-impact-on-global-internet-performance-updated-march-19/

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/04/07/998552/why-the-coronavirus-lockdown-is-making-the-internet-better-than-ever/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1128283/covid-impact-global-internet-performance-country/

https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/covid-19-reinforces-need-connectivity

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