Networks coping, but future traffic impossible to predict

Originally published by the Wire Report
Author: Adam Langenberg

Experts say Canada’s telecommunications networks are currently handling a spike in residential data consumption caused by the working from home surge, but a lack of certainty around how the COVID-19 pandemic will develop means it’s almost impossible to project whether usage will continue to grow.

Internet service providers, researchers and industry groups told The Wire Report that residential internet usage during peak times — the highest point during a particular day — had increased by anywhere from 20 to 45 per cent since March 16, while voice and mobile data networks had also seen a marked increase in traffic due to the pandemic.

Distributel Communications Ltd.’s residential internet usage has increased nearly 50 per cent in terms of overall consumption, the company’s CEO Matt Stein said in a phone interview, while usage in the peak period had gone up, “but not drastically.”

Others say that increase in traffic during the peak is higher. Toronto Internet Exchange president Kevin Blumberg said Canada’s largest internet exchange had experienced a 20 to 25 per cent increase in peak traffic, while Craig Labowitz, chief technology officer for Nokia Corp.’s Deefield said in a phone interview that “impacted regions” in North America — places where lockdowns had been implemented and the impacts of COVID-19 had been felt most — had seen a rise in peak traffic of between 30 and 45 per cent.

A Telus Corp. spokesperson said in an email that the demand on its networks had dramatically increased since March 16, with a 25 per cent increase in home internet usage, a 15 per cent spike in live TV viewing on Optik TV and a more than 30 per cent rise in video-on-demand use.

While the rest of the major incumbents declined to be interviewed about the extent of usage increases, BCE Inc. last week said its home internet usage had risen by up to 60 per cent during the day, and was up to 20 per cent higher than usual at night.

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