European network traffic volumes stabilising

The updated summary report from body of European regulators for electronic communications on how network operators can cope with increased demand for network capacity finds that, by mid-May 2020, all is well

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The latest summary report by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (Berec) on the status of internet capacity, regulatory and other measures in light of the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis shows that traffic volumes are stabilising and that no major congestion has occurred as yet.

The May 2020 summary report on the status of internet capacity, regulatory and other measures in light of the coronavirus outbreak reflects the joint work that Berec committed to with the European Commission on how network operators would cope with the increased demand of network capacity, with regards to a special reporting mechanism to ensure regular monitoring of the internet traffic situation in each member state and to be able to respond swiftly to capacity issues.

Berec also collected information on other measures implemented by National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs), as well as on other initiatives by public and private parties throughout Europe.

The survey showed that 321 NRAs shared their data about the impact of the crisis on electronic communications networks and the actions taken so far in their respective member states. In general, traffic on fixed and mobile networks was found to have increased during the Covid-19 crisis, but no major congestion issues have occurred. Three phases in the evolution of internet traffic have been observed during the crisis: sharp increase, stabilisation and a decrease from the peak.

Looking at individual countries, Cyprus reported that data traffic on mobile networks slightly increased in the week beginning 27 April 2020 compared with the previous week, while the fixed data traffic remained stable compared with the same period. After a slight increase in the first weeks, the country registered a stabilisation both for mobile data traffic, with average volume up by 29%, and fixed average volume, with a 57% increase, in the lockdown period (weeks 11-18). In the past two weeks, internet traffic has been decreasing.

Bulgaria and Portugal both reported that overall traffic remained stable compared with the previous week. The former country stressed that there was a good quality of service, while the Iberian nation confirmed that overall internet traffic continued to decrease, although only slightly.

Luxembourg reported that mobile data traffic was decreasing to the same levels as before the crisis and the majority of fixed network operators reported a decrease in traffic corresponding to a level which is now only 10% higher than before the crisis. Regulatory actions taken by NRAs are monitoring the situation and are regularly collecting data from internet service providers (ISPs) and other market players about the status of their networks.

Portugal reported that one ISP reinforced the capacity on its GPRS roaming exchange, while Serbia mentioned that operators had provided increased network capacity to cope with the increase in traffic and had granted their customers access to specific content free of charge.

Berec asked NRAs if there were any applications/solutions in place in their member state to monitor the spread of Covid-19. As of 12 May, 13 NRAs indicated that there was indeed at least one such application/solution in place. Of the other responding NRAs, three indicated that while no such application/solution was currently in place, there were plans in place to launch such applications/solutions in their member state.

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