The impact of COVID19 on bandwidth usages is particularly noticeable when it comes to video streaming.
Traditionally video streaming on sites such as YouTube peak in the evening as people come home from work but, due to people being told to work from home all over the globe, YouTube is noticing video streaming increasing steadily throughout the day [Source].
YouTube announced it was going to make Standard Definition (do you even remember SD?) the default across the globe.
YouTube has made 480p the default resolution for its videos globally. [Source].
In the week before, YouTube and Netflix had already downgraded their streaming services to standard definition by default in the European Union to cope with the increased demand (although users of YouTube can switch to HD if desired) [Source].
To cope with that additional usage, True Corp in Thailand has tripled international and domestic bandwidth capacity.
In some parts of the world internet usage is up by half [Source] – resulting from increasing demand rather than increases in the number of people trying to access the internet.
Some remote working platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have struggled to keep up with the demand [Source].
Vodafone is one such company that has seen data usage increase by half [Source].
In the United States WiFi and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Comcast have given free access to both their customers and non-customers, scrapped data limits and are permitting late payment of broadband bills [Source].
Perhaps one of the most attention grabbing actions by a major video streaming platform is PornHub, which has released PornHub Premium for free worldwide as people remain at home under quarantine [Source].
COVID 19 Internet Usage Timeline
Here is a history of how COVID19 has affected internet bandwidth so far:
- YouTube Traffic Increase
- Call to Reduce Bandwidth
- Netflix Responds
- Amazon, Apple & Disney Responds
- Youtube Drops HD
- Gaming (XBOX & PS4)
- Europe Throttles Traffic
In the United States, one fixed network reported that the download of software updates has more than doubled [Source].
YouTube Traffic Increase
For Wednesday 18 March, it was not clear if there was increases in the volume of video streaming as a whole although it seemed that content preferences has changed with YouTube getting nearly twice as much volume compared to Netflix [Source].
A network in North America witnessed over 10 percent increase in traffic during peak times with a slightly smaller increase of non-peak internet usage for the week [Source].
Call to Reduce Bandwidth
The Internal Market and Services Commissioner for the European Union, Tierry Breton, called on Thursday March 19 for Netflix, YouTube and other streaming platforms to take action as a result of strain being caused on networks resulting from COVID19 [Source].
Mr Breton tweeted to say he had spoken with Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix to discuss how HD was “not necessary” and lobbied to have Netflix switch to SD.
Breton added “with millions of people working from home amid the crisis, broadband networks may get congested” [Source].
The next day, Friday March 20, Netflix responded by reducing streaming quality in Europe to cope with unprecedented usage, reducing bit rate of all video streams for one month.
The company estimated that the measure would reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by “around 25%” [Source].
Amazon, Apple & Disney Responds
On Monday March 23 Amazon, Apple and Disney also announced plans to reduce streaming quality as a result of the Coronavirus.
These actions were taken to reduce “bandwidth utilisation” by a quarter throughout Europe [Source].
This was an interesting decision by Disney as it was the day before the launch of their on demand video streaming service.
In fact Disney took stronger actions by delaying the launch of the service in France by two weeks [Source].
Youtube Drops HD
It was on Tuesday March 24 when YouTube made the decision to reduce video quality throughout the world for the whole month.
Users will see videos in SD by default but can opt to change the default settings to see HD [Source].
In India on the same day both Netflix and Hotstar as well as Amazon, YouTube and at least 8 other major video streaming platforms were asked by Indian ISPs to reduce their bit rates due to the significant rise of traffic.
Indian mobile data service providers are reported to have contact the Indian Telecom Department and Home Ministry to intervene as a result [Source].
Gaming (XBOX & PS4)
Microsoft, Sony and other gaming platforms have started throttling game downloads, as was reported on Wednesday 25 March due to the heavy bandwidth requirements [Source].
In Canada changes in consumption patterns have caused usage rates to spike following working from home requirements [Source].
Europe Throttles Traffic
Amazon, Apple, Disney, Facebook and Instagram have reduced download speeds in the European Union [Source].
COVID-19 Info Graphic
The Impact of COVID-19
The impact on bandwidth utilisation of COVID19 has been particularly noticeable when it comes to video streaming.
YouTube has made Standard Definition the default across the world although users can upgrade from 480p to HD if they so wish.
Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Facebook and Instagram have also downgraded bit rate to standard definition in Europe to cope with the increased demand for their video streaming services.
In some parts of the world, internet usage is up by half due to increased demand and not increases in users. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other remote working platforms have struggled to keep up with demand.
Have you noticed any changes? Feel free to leave a comment below