Connectivity and COVID-19: Maintaining QoE During a Crisis (2020)

By William McFarland, Plume

Few events in modern times have had as large an impact on society as COVID-19. Across the globe, people have been encouraged to work- and school-from-home. In many cases, this was mandated by governments by shelter-in-place orders –and for some, this continues to be the ‘new norm’. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a huge shift in network usage patterns. Several trends are apparent in the data that will be presented in this paper:

Large increases in people working on the internet at home during the workdays Dramatic increases in the number of hours that devices are active on the home network, particularly computers, phones, and entertainment devices. The workday is spreading into the evening hours as families try to juggle work and family commitments.

Remarkably, wired internet access networks have held up to the added load well. Figure 1 shows the download and upload speeds as recorded at more than 15 million households that are managed by the Plume Cloud. The delivered speeds, as measured by Plume, are remarkably consistent before and after COVID-19 caused the large increase in working-from-home. In fact, average speeds even trended upwards across the time due to subscribers upgrading to higher tier services to meet their expanded needs.

At the onset of the pandemic many predicted that broadband service providers would struggle to meet higher and changing bandwidth demands–many OTT TV providers even reduced streaming quality to assist–however, Plume data shows that the networks coped admirably.

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