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Global broadband speed clipping rockets over past 18 months

Research shows broadband speed clipping is rising sharply, with many subscribers hitting upper speed limits

Research from network improvement systems provider OpenVault has shown that the percentage of subscribers pushing against the upper limits of their broadband speed tiers has increased dramatically over the past 18 months.

In fact, taking broadband capability past 80% of provisioned broadband speed – known as speed clipping – can result in poor customer experiences that require customer care and network troubleshooting resources to resolve. It also puts strain on hybrid infrastructures.

Speed clipping occurs as subscribers access high-bandwidth applications such as video streaming, gaming and video conferencing, often simultaneously by multiple users in the same location.

In the study, the OpenVault broadband insights report for the third quarter of 2021, speed clipping was found to be spiking at 400% of early pandemic figures. In terms of overall global network usage, the report noted that while the number of gigabit subscribers has grown by a factor of 4.5x over the last two years, a majority of subscribers (56.2%) remained in speed tier packages of 200Mbps or slower.

Using data from one of its broadband providers, OpenVault said the report indicated that downstream speed clipping in September 2021 was close to 400% of the May 2020 figure during the 21:00 hour. In the upstream, where OpenVault believed many providers were architecturally constrained by capacity limits, speed clipping peaked at a 150% increase during the 23:00 hour. Overall, speed clipping incidents were up 52.6% in the downstream and 48.8% in the upstream during the same period.

Open Vault noted that the issues were not network-based and that effort and expense can be avoided through the use of proper analytics tools. “By effectively identifying speed-clipping subscribers, network operators can prevent unnecessary truck rolls and better target them with speed upgrade offers that ultimately provide the consumer with a better experience,” it said. “The results can improve customer satisfaction and net promoter scores [NPS], reduce operational expenses and increase ARPU [average revenue per user].”

In other trends revealed in the study, monthly weighted average data usage – including both usage-based billing (UBB) and flat-rate billing (FRB) subscribers – was 434.9GBytes, up 13% over Q3 2020 and up slightly from Q2 2021. Monthly median usage continues to grow at a faster pace than average usage, indicating broad-based entrenchment of broadband within consumers’ lives. In Q3 2021, median usage growth of 21% was 61% higher than the 13% average usage growth.

The report also showed that growth was happening significantly more quickly on systems that offer FRB plans versus those that use UBB. FRB subscribers usage growth was found to be 52% more than that of UBB subscribers, resulting in usage per subscriber that was nearly 10% higher (458GB vs 419GB). Also, FRB-based networks exhibited 53% growth among extreme power users of 2TB or more, while extreme power user growth among UBB subscribers was 39%.

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