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Data Network Traffic Impact From COVID-19

Posted by Natalie Steinwand on April 13, 2020
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Zoom has gone from 10 million to 200 million minutes a day. AT&T: Demand for VPN offering surged 700%. Verizon: Video game usage is up 75%. The COVID-19 network traffic surge, by the numbers.

The world has gone online as never before, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down business and entertainment venues. Most U.S. states have imposed stay-at-home orders and social distancing policies, generating a surge in remote work and media consumption. This is dramatically boosting the use of many online services, including streaming media, virtual private networks (VPNs), online gaming, cloud computing applications, and more.

How much has COVID-19 social distancing practices boosted network traffic? Here’s a “by the numbers” summary of the latest data points on traffic gains for Zoom, VPN services, video games, cloud computing, Internet exchanges and content delivery networks.

Network Impact

“An Extraordinary Period in Internet History”: Akamai CEO Tom Leighton places the COVID-19 traffic impact in historic terms. “I’ve been looking at traffic graphs for over 20 years now and I can’t recall seeing anything like this,” said Leighton.

The Zoom Boom: Quantifying Zoom’s Increased Traffic: At the end of December, the maximum number of daily meeting participants using Zoom was 10 million. In March, Zoom reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants. From the Zoom blog, along with security and privacy updates.

SDN, NFV Helped AT&T Meet Huge Surge in VPN  Traffic Demands: AT&T says demand for the company’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) offering skyrocketed 700% during the past few weeks as millions of Americans began working from home. Via Light Reading.

Gaming Usage Soars Amid Coronavirus Outbreak: U.S. video game usage has gone up 75 percent during peak hours, according to data from Verizon. Meanwhile, video streaming has also increased by 12 percent. Via the Hollywood Reporter.

CDN Video Traffic Update: Higher Demand for VOD Content Offset by Loss of Live Sports: Overall traffic growth specific to video on third-party CDN networks was up between 12%-20% in March, when compared to February, according to streaming content analyst Dan Rayburn.

Microsoft Cloud Use Soars Amid COVID-19 Social Distancing: Use of Microsoft’s cloud services is soaring amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with usage increasing as much as 775 percent for some apps in regions implementing social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. (Data Center Frontier)

Comcast : Peak Network Traffic Rises as Millions Stay at Home (Light Reading):  Comcast’s network surged about 32%, and as high as 60% in cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, according to new data put out by the cable operator. Via Light Reading.

How COVID-19 is Affecting Internet Performance: Content delivery network Fastly reports that the surge of traffic is having a side-effect in the form of slower download speeds in the busiest markets.  “Based on our regional analysis, we can confidently say that the Internet is holding up quite well despite experiencing a persistently increased load — handling traffic increases upwards of 40% in some cases despite speed reductions,”  the Fastly team writes.

Internet Exchanges See Record Levels of Traffic: Internet exchanges are seeing record levels of network traffic as the spread of the Coronavirus prompts more remote work and online education. Game downloads are also boosting traffic.

Netflix to Cut Streaming Video Bit Rates in Europe, Aiming to Reduce Bandwidth Usage by 25% (Variety): Netflix agreed to temporarily reduce bandwidth used by its streaming service in Europe, saying it will cut video bit rates for the next 30 days at the behest of the European Union to ease the load on internet networks in the region.

Amazon Follow Netflix’s Lead Reduces Streaming Quality in Europe (TechCrunch): Following moves by Netflix and YouTube, Amazon announced today that it, too, will be throttling streaming bitrates in Europe in an effort to conserve bandwidth.

For additional data on Internet Exchange traffic, see this tweet from Christian Koch, who is aggregating data from IX points around the globe.

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