Lockdown Drives Up US Broadband Usage By Almost Half

The current lockdown has driven a 47% surge in US broadband traffic, according to analytics and technology provider OpenVault.

The firm based its analysis on usage patterns collected from US cable companies and reported that average broadband consumption in the country increased from 273.5 GB in the first quarter of 2019 to 402.5 GB in Q1 2020. That happens to be almost exactly the firm’s original projection for the whole of this year, so in effect the lockdown has done no more than bringing forward growth that was occurring anyway. This means that as lockdowns ease and life regains some semblance of normality, broadband usage is likely to plateau or just dip a little temporarily, rather than shed all of these recent gains. With the US lockdown continuing through April however, the country’s growth trajectory continued, with the average broadband consumption touching 460 GB by the end of the month, according to OpenVault’s provisional count.

The sectors with the sharpest growth in Q1 2020 were power uses consuming 1 TB or more, and extreme power uses at 2 TB or more. The percentage of subscribers who were power users reached 10%, an increase of 138% over the 4.2% in the same quarter a year ago. Extreme power users represented 1.2% of all subscribers, up 215% from 0.38% year-on-year.

Other findings include:

With broadband quotas relaxed during much of March, the typical pattern of flat rate billing (FRB) usage outgrowing consumption by subscribers on usage based billing (UBB) plans was reversed: Subscriber usage with relaxed UBB packages grew by 49.05 per cent in Q1 20, while FRB growth was 44.42 per cent.

Median usage, a leading indicator of usage growth across all subscribers, was up sharply. Median usage across UBB and FRB plans was 233.6 GB, up 60 per cent from 146.0 GB in Q1 19 and up 22 per cent from 190.7 GB at the end of 2019. Importantly, the rate of increase in media growth accelerated to 122 per cent during the first quarter of 2020.

Upstream usage rose sharply during March, “as more people work from home and use collaboration tools such as videoconferencing”.

Increased usage is nudging subscribers toward faster speeds. The percentage of subscribers provisioned for gigabit-speed service increased 97 per cent to 3.75 per cent in Q1 20 year-over-year from Q1 19’s 1.9 per cent and was up 34 per cent from the 2.8 per cent at the end of 2019.

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