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Broadband upstream usage, speeds spike higher in Q2 2020

As the need for remote working, learning, information and entertainment makes broadband access more important than ever, a consumption report finds mass usage of applications such as Zoom driving uptake of higher-speed packages

Reflecting increased use of video-conferencing for business, educational and lifestyle purposes during the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest edition of the OpenVault Broadband Insights (OVBI) report looking at internet usage in the second quarter of 2020 has revealed that global broadband users are continuing to increase reliance on upstream bandwidth and are opting for faster speeds to meet dramatically changed usage habits.

The Q2 2020 OVBI study, using millions of subscriber data points from more than 150 service providers across four continents, noted from the outset that the need for remote working, learning, information and entertainment has made broadband access more important than ever, at every level of society. The new edition tracked what it said was an unprecedented event, and its implications for broadband operator networks.

Even though overall demand was lower than the peaks seen in the previous three-month period, the study showed that even with declines in overall usage during 2Q20, consumption has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Upstream consumption rose 5.3% from the end of Q1 to the end of Q2.

Upstream rise, which has soared since the beginning of the year, continued – even though overall usage actually declined by 5.5% on an annual basis during the same period. Overall upstream consumption was up 56% year-over-year through Q2 2020.

As consumer usage increasingly extended across multiple devices simultaneously and operators offered complimentary speed upgrades and relaxed data ceilings, demand for faster bandwidth tiers accelerated during the same period. Even though total average usage declined from 402 GB to 380 GB in Q2 2020, consumption is still well above pre-pandemic levels and up nearly 36% from the average of 280 GB at the end of Q2 2019.

The report noticed a similar effect reflected in what it called the power user category, where the 8.7% of subscribers consuming 1TB represented a 13% decline from 1Q to Q2 2020 – but was up 112% from 4.1% in Q2 2019. However, peak usage during the pandemic was again illustrated in the power user category, with a 13% decline of 1 TB power users in 2Q 2020 from 1Q 2020.

With usage quotas relaxed during the pandemic, the OBVI found consumption by subscribers on usage-based billing (UBB) plans increased nearly 42% year-over-year, from 262.9 GB in Q219 to 372.8 GB in Q2 2020. Average usage in Europe was 221.6 GB, down 10% from the 247.7 GB of Q1 2020 but up 30% from the 170.2 GB in Q2 2019.

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The report suggested that such trends were largely due to the fact that most operators with UBB in place opted to relax usage quotas beginning in March to provide unlimited usage during the pandemic. As quotas are reinstituted, OpenVault said that it expected growth in usage for UBB providers to slow.

Another trend was that consumers were upping their broadband packages. The Q2 2020 OVBI showed that nearly 5% of subscribers now receive connections of 1 Gbps or faster, up 133% year-over-year and up 75% in the past six months alone. About 61% of all subscribers indicated that connections of 100 Mbps or faster, a one-year increase of 27%.

“Overall usage eased in the second quarter, but nothing is forever in this pandemic,” said Mark Trudeau, CEO of OpenVault commenting on the Q2 2020 OpenVault broadband insights report. “The persistent pressure on upstream plant and the migration of subscribers to faster tiers, not to mention the unknowns of distance learning, remote businesses and emerging Covid hotspots ­– these are all flashing signals that higher consumption levels lie ahead.”

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