‘Dramatic’ shift in global broadband usage trends

Quarterly survey from network improvement services provider unearths broadband first: usage-based consumption on par with flat-rate use

The latest version of the OpenVault broadband insights report is claiming to have seen a key trend in the global broadband industry no less than upended in the first quarter of 2023, as subscribers on usage-based broadband (UBB) plans achieved and slightly exceeded consumption parity with their flat-rate (FRB) plan counterparts for the first time.

The report uses data aggregated from OpenVault’s suite of broadband management tools, and past editions have detailed the connection between faster internet speeds and increased data consumption.

In the previous report for the fourth quarter of 2022, the highlighted trend was that average broadband consumption approached a new high of nearly 600GB per month by the end of 2022, and the percentage of subscribers on gigabit-speed tiers was shown to have more than doubled over the course of the previous 12 months.

Among the key findings in this latest report was that significantly higher rates of usage growth among UBB subscribers resulted in average (562.7 GB) and median (382 GB) monthly UBB consumption that was marginally higher than the 555.5 GB average and the 371.1 GB median for consumers on FRB plans.

OpenVault’s analysis for Q123 shows that approximately 30% more UBB subscribers (90%) enjoyed speeds of 200 Mbps or faster than FRB subscribers (63%).

During the same period, average usage grew at a rate of 12.2% for UBB subscribers, nearly seven times that of FRB consumers, while median usage grew at a rate of 17.3% for UBB subscribers as FRB median usage remained flat.

The study noted that while overall monthly average data usage rose 9.1% year-on-year to 560.5 GB, from 513.8 GB, monthly median data rose 11.9% to 378.6 GB, from 338.4 GB a year ago. The higher median growth rate indicates a broad increase in consumption across operators’ entire subscriber bases.

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The percentage of power users in Q123, that is those consuming 1 TB or more of data per month, was 17%, a year-on-year increase of 16.2%, while superpower users consuming 2 TB or more per month rose to 3% from 2.4% a year earlier, a 26.9% year-on-year increase. The percentage of subscribers on speed tiers of 500 Mbps or faster reached 40% in Q123, an increase of 106% over Q122.

“Implications for the broadband industry are mixed,” an OpenVault analyst noted in the report. “On the one hand, faster speed adoption often results in higher ARPU for operators and increased satisfaction for consumers as they “right-size” to subscription plans that are aligned with their actual usage.

“On the other hand, operators who have viewed UBB as a tool to reduce strain on the broadband plant will need to explore new solutions for maintaining and improving network health and alleviating network congestion,” they said.

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