Comcast said internet traffic has risen 32% because of COVID-19 but assured everyone it has the capacity to handle peak traffic demands in the U.S.
Tony Werner, Comcast’s president of technology, said in a press briefing that the company normally adds capacity 12-18 months ahead of time, with typical plans targeting 45% a year increases in traffic.
“First and foremost, I think it’s important to know that the network is performing well,” Werner said. “And people are able to — both businesses and customers working from home — do the things they need to do with a great deal of proficiency.”
He said the company engineers the networks for “peak traffic” and that traffic is up more than 32% overall as of last week. Some parts of the country are up 60%, including Seattle, San Francisco, and now Chicago.
“Seattle and San Francisco [are] where we experienced this first,” Werner said.
Unsurprisingly, the shift from working in offices to working from home has significantly changed how the network is being used.
With companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google, and others asking personnel to work from home, employees are using the network intensively, sending files back and forth and video-conferencing, Werner said.
But most people are opting for voice calls, rather than video calls. The company said digital voice home use is up 65%, as people need high-quality voice on work calls. Peak usage — which includes downstream traffic like watching shows — used to be 9 p.m. at night, but it is moving up to 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., as people aren’t commuting or stopping to meet friends.
Upstream traffic used to peak at 9 p.m., but that is moving to daytime across the county, Werner said. Now the typical peak for upstream traffic is around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.
New game releases and theatrical releases will cause bumps, but the traffic growth is starting to level off. Video conference calls using the voice-over-internet-protocol on Comcast have gone up 212% since March 1.
Virtual private network (VPN) traffic is up close to 40%, while entertainment usage on the weekend is up with all customers.
“We are seeing gaming downloads up 50% to 80%, depending on new releases,” Werner said.
As for usage, Werner said there has been a “pretty good tick up” in the downloading of games since March 1. Call of Duty: Warzone and another big game made usage go up 80%, with most of that traffic happening at night.
The traffic is not associated with gameplay (which doesn’t consume that much bandwidth), but with downloading files for new games. Video on demand traffic is up 25% from a year ago, and voice queries are topping 50 million per day.
Werner said the idea that you can’t have a Zoom conference while someone is playing a game on the same network is a misconception. He also said Comcast is not asking users to throttle back their usage.
Wi-Fi use is also skyrocketing as people connect their smartphones to home Wi-Fi. There is a 10% decline in LTE or cellular data and a 24% increase in mobile data over Wi-Fi, which now handles 18 times the amount of mobile data versus cell phone networks.
“We continue to micro-manage the network,” Werner said.
A lot of people are setting up new home offices, and they probably need help with things like network range.
“The backbone network is humming well,” Werner said. “Obviously, we are being cautious because there is more of this to come at us.”
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