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Average monthly broadband usage nears 600GB

After a sharp rise in broadband speed clipping, with many subscribers hitting upper-speed limits, research finds year-on-year gigabit tier adoption more than doubled in the fourth quarter of 2022

At the end of 2021, research from network improvement systems provider OpenVault found the percentage of subscribers pushing against the upper limits of their broadband networks’ speed tiers had increased dramatically over the past 18 months, putting massive strain on strain on hybrid infrastructures, and now the company has seen data consumption in such infrastructures rocket over the course of 2022.

The fourth-quarter 2022 edition of the OpenVault Broadband Insights (OVBI) report was calculated using measurement data aggregated from OpenVault’s suite of broadband management tools. The data is used to pinpoint usage patterns, including the differences between two key categories: subscribers on flat-rate billing (FRB) plans that offer unlimited data usage; and those on usage-based billing (UBB) plans, on which subscribers are billed based on their bandwidth consumption.

According to the study, average broadband consumption approached a new high of nearly 600GB per month by the end of last year and the percentage of subscribers on gigabit speed tiers was shown to have more than doubled over the course of the previous 12 months.

Specifically, the report calculated that the average per-subscriber consumption was 586.7GB at the end of 2022, an increase of nearly 10% over the prior year. During the same period, the percentage of subscribers provisioned for gigabit speeds rose to 26%, more than double that reported for the fourth quarter of 2021 figure of 12.2%. Nearly 35% of UBB subscribers receive gigabit speeds, up from 13% a year ago and 2.5 times the percentage of FRB gigabit subscribers.

Year-over-year upstream and downstream bandwidth growth remained relatively even, at 9.4% and 10.1% respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2022.

While 2022’s fourth-quarter weighted average data usage of 586.7GB was up 9.4% from 536.3GB in the equivalent 2021 quarter, the study showed the year-on-year pace had slowed since its peak of 40.3% growth to 482.6GB in the fourth quarter of 2020. Weighted averages combine data from FRB and UBB subscribers.

The percentage of power users consuming 1TB or more per month in the fourth quarter of 2022 was found to be 18.7%, a year-over-year increase of 16% and 10 times the percentage observed just five years ago, in the fourth quarter of 2017. Annual growth of superpower users, defined as those consuming 2TB or more per month, increased by 25% in the fourth quarter of 2022, leaping from 2.7% to 3.4%, a near 30 times increase over the past five years. OpenVault noted that as migration to faster speed tiers continued, the percentage of subscribers in tiers under 200Mbps declined by 43% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

OpenVault’s continued analysis of the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program shows that median usage by ACP participants in the fourth quarter of 2022 was 531.9GB, more than 34% higher than the 396.6GB recorded by all subscribers. In addition, the OVBI noted for the first time a Christmas Day trend of significantly higher average usage beginning in the mid-morning hours and continuing into the afternoon.

Commenting on the report, OpenVault said: “Demand for greater internet speed continues to increase. Operators need to be mindful not only of this overall growth, but of growth among specific segments of subscribers and at specific times. Consumption by subscribers in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program continues to outpace that of all subscribers, and rapid growth of peak time consumption – especially during and around the holiday season. Both are considerations that need to be addressed in network planning.”

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