New network data released by EE has shed some light on changing habits among the British public during the coronavirus pandemic – especially the migration of data traffic from city centres to suburban areas.
While data consumption is down by 58% in Central London, that figure has jumped by as much as 120% in Stevenage and Hereford as commuters stay at home.
Similar to figures released by rival O2, EE has seen an increase in voice traffic on its network too. Calls lasting beyond five minutes have doubled and voice usage has risen by 45%, running counter to long-term trends.
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Mobile data trends
Usage of communications apps in general - such as WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype - have increased fivefold during lockdown as people attempt to stay in touch with friends and family.
The stats also show demand for online shopping services has returned to a more normal level now stockpiling has ceased, while exercise application use has doubled as a result of gym closures. Fitbit use, however, has halved as people commute less, while navigation app demand has plummeted.
“Lockdown has clearly driven huge changes in the way our mobile network is being used,” said BT Consumer CEO Marc Allera. “A 45 per cent increase in traffic for communication apps like WhatsApp, Houseparty, Skype and Teams demonstrates the importance of staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues, while it’s also interesting to see how network traffic is visibly shifting from cities to suburban areas."
“Fitness apps are seeing big spikes in data usage as we exercise outside more and online supermarket orders spiked massively in the early stages, and are now returning to a new ‘normal’. What’s clear is that the role of a highly reliable high speed mobile network has never been more important to our customers, and I’m pleased that the EE network continues to deliver a great performance even in these tough times.”
In general, the UK’s communication infrastructure has coped with increases in demand for productivity, entertainment and communications applications. However, restrictions on movement mean the majority of this data traffic is being handled by home Wi-Fi rather than mobile networks, with operators likely to see a reduction in roaming and business revenues.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.