Jonas Weinitschke - stock.adobe.

Coronavirus: German networks take the extra strain from social distancing

Network performance and customer experience monitoring firm finds German networks coping with masses of online home users despite some degradations since the start of social distancing and stay-at-home policies

Unlike in other large European countries, Germany’s healthcare system has so far coped admirably with the Covid-19 outbreak and research has found that its telcos and infrastructure operators are performing just as well when dealing with added strain on networks from the increase in home working.

According to research from network performance and customer experience monitoring firm MedUX, which has been tracking the effects of Covid-19, specifically the mobility restrictions and #StayAtHome measures, German networks have shown a slight degradation in key quality indicators over the last few weeks. The average impact is not regarded as very material, but some telco operators have seen relevant degradations since the start of social distancing and stay-at-home policies.

In its research, MedUX focused on basic service quality parameters such as speed, latency and packet loss and on some web browsing and video streaming indicators. Results were mostly based on a cross-Germany average performance of wired connections to router via Ethernet, unless otherwise stated. MedUX also analysed Wi-Fi and regional performance for some indicators.

Very high speed digital subscriber line (VDSL) and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) technologies with speed profiles ranging from 50Mbps up to 400Mbps for Germany’s four biggest operators – Deutsche Telekom, 1&1, Vodafone/Unity and O2 – were taken into consideration. MedUX saw Wi-Fi as important enough to take into account to evaluate a true user experience, considering that a minority of devices are connected via Ethernet.

The research found that although German networks were, in general, performing better than those of some other European countries with stricter lockdown rules and greater traffic volume increases, they have been under some strain since mobility restrictions and social distancing policies began. It observed degradation in basic parameters such as latency, packet loss and contracted speed compliance, and in indicators related to web browsing, gaming, cloud storage and streaming services.

MedUX observed the impact on latency for the week beginning 16 March (week 12) during peak time (8-9pm). Most regions were affected in some way, but considering latency as a reference, Bavaria, North-Rhine Westphalia and Hamburg had a relatively more severe degradation in 100Mbps services.

The drop in compliance with contracted speeds for wired connections (via Ethernet) was up to 2.5% for 50Mbps and 100Mbps services on average at the national level during peak hours of weeks 12 and 13. The same drop in compliance for wireless connections (via Wi-Fi) was up to 7% for 50Mbps services during peak hours of week 13. There was an up to 25–35% exceptional decrease in compliance with contracted download speeds for some operators and speed profiles during peak hours (around 8-9pm) on the worst-performing days of weeks 12 and 13.

There was an up to 13% increase in latency for 100Mbps services during morning and afternoon hours, on average, at the national level and an up to 40ms exceptional latency for some operators and speed profiles during peak hours on the worst-performing days of weeks 12 and 13. There was an up to 0.12% average packet loss during peak hours of week 12 and an up to 2.25% exceptional packet loss for some operators and speed profiles during peak hours on the worst-performing days of weeks 12 and 13.

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Some operators were also affected by the degradation of web browsing, streaming and gaming experiences, especially the latter because of latency, jitter and packet loss worsening. The worst-performing operators suffered a deterioration of streaming and web browsing experiences of up to 30%, especially during weeks 12 and 13. There was up to a 5-6% average increase in the start-up and loading time of videos (streaming) during afternoon hours (including peak time) on the worst-performing days.

However, from the week beginning 30 March, MedUX recorded better network stability and observed a general improvement in some performance indicators during the first weeks of April.

On the operators’ side, Deutsche Telekom reported that the data traffic volume had doubled compared with the pre-Covid-19 regime of the end of February. On 18 March, Vodafone Deutschland noted a light traffic increase of 10-15% in the fixed network, but the internet remained stable. Vodafone reported that a total increase of 80% compared with a normal month in the fixed network was seen in March. O2 recorded an increase in traffic of up to 50%.

MedUX said it was pleased overall with network resilience and telco operators’ efforts to manage this unprecedented situation and make sure enough capacity is deployed in networks and internet exchanges. It said it believed the coronavirus lockdown in Germany would make the internet and networks stronger than ever.

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