Internet traffic increases 'plateauing' as peak streaming levels reached

(Image credit: Nokia)

New research from Nokia suggests that dramatic increases in Internet traffic caused by the coronavirus outbreak might be plateauing as the world’s communications infrastructure copes well with the additional demands placed on it.

Many countries have placed restrictions on the movement and activities of citizens in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19, meaning many people are confined to their homes.

The situation has increased the reliance on home broadband and mobile connections for entertainment, online shopping and doing work and had led to concerns that infrastructure would struggle.

Network traffic increase

However despite some changing behavioural patterns, any predicted meltdown has failed to appear. This is because most networks are built to cope with peak evening demands and streaming services such as Netflix have reduced transmission quality at the request of the EU.

Nokia says lockdown caused an immediate rise in weekday peak traffic of more than 45 per cent as people started to work from home. Meanwhile, weekend evening traffic has risen by between 20 and 40 per cent as entertainment services grow in popularity.

Most weekend peak traffic volumes are at least 20 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels but many countries are showing modest or no growth. This is in part because peak video consumption has been reached.

Mobile and broadband operators have made significant efforts to boost the capacity of their networks, while several streaming services have voluntarily reduced bitrates to ease the strain.

One of the biggest trends has been a 30 per cent increase in upstream traffic, brought about by the increased use of videoconferencing and collaboration tools. However there has also been a renaissance in web browsing, which is now the largest use case after video.

However the increased reliance on communications networks has been accompanied by a rise in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) traffic. Nokia notes that any disruption to service would be even more disastrous given the current situation.

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.