COVID Lockdowns Putting Strain on Broadband Infrastructure Around the Globe

Safe to say there won’t be anyone who’s even slightly enamoured with all the different fallouts from the Global Pandemic, and if your discontent is particularly strong then you had best buckle down as projections of the 2nd wave arriving imminently are looking to be pretty darn accurate (at least here in Vancouver where the general disregard to protocols is pretty much absolute in public). One wrinkle in all of this – albeit a pretty big wrinkle – is we’re leaning on the World Wide Web more heavily than ever before it seems.

This was especially in the early spring when the stay-at-home messaging was still being well received, and people were either online working or keeping themselves entertained indoors. Since then the nature of demand has shifted, but we’re not sufficiently in the know regarding all of this to say exactly how it’s all worked. But the long and short of it is that collectively we’re putting demand strains on Broadband infrastructure like never before, and in a lot of ways it’s buckling under the weight of these demands.

We’re like any quality Canadian web hosting provider here at 4GoodHosting in that we’re likely more up front when it comes to having this be readily apparent. We know from extensive 2nd hand experience how much people get up in arms over the struggles that come with a lack of bandwidth and the nature of what we do (and know accordingly) makes us all to aware of how big a problem this has the potential to become. Particularly with the imminently ubiquitous nature of 5G network use around the globe.

All this said, let’s use today’s blog to have a more detailed look at this ‘constriction’ and the significance of it.

Only So Much Width to the Tube

Not the most natural of analogies for this phenomenon, but bear with us. So there’s been a map recently created in Australia, and while we’re not able to show the map due to copyright restrictions it’s quite telling. Its been referred to as a ‘global internet pressure’ map and what it does is show the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic is putting constrictions on internet services around the world.

Now as you might guess, the #1 cause of such bandwidth-intense activity is high definition (HD) video streaming and online gaming, and it’s true these are among the leading causes of contribution to the congestion. No matter how you might it wish it were otherwise, more and more people either working from home or lounging at home means much more in the way of big bandwidth appetites.

So here’s where we get our tube analogy from. The workings of this is not that much functionally different from a very large group of overweight children trying to make their way through a crowded subway tunnel. The streaming video or video upload during teleconferencing is made up of packets of information that can be far from small depending on what’s contained within them. When too many of these packets are trying to make their way down copper and fiber-optic cables across vast distances it’s inevitable that some aren’t going to arrive when they’re expected to.

Internet Use Through Lockdowns

Researchers have been looking at how each nation’s internet was performing from the time people started to stay at home and use it for both work and home-based entertainment through until now. Also tracked were changes in internet latency that emerged between March 12 to 13, which coincided with several countries — including France, Spain and Italy — beginning enforcement of government-imposed lockdowns aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

There was a point made to differentiate between the first days of the lockdown period and the baseline period in early February, and then finding a median starting point for legit internet pressure, where marked latency or speed, issues started to affect millions of internet users across certain regions. They then made a point to look at those a collective whole, but that information is more subjective to readers who’ll have a look at the map.

The long and short of it is this – current Internet bandwidth infrastructure is sufficient only at the very best of times, and even without a global pandemic we’re very likely nearing the end of the realistic and practical working life of the existing infrastructure as it is. Without major investments in upgrades all the ‘progress’ we’ve prided ourselves in being able to offer one another is about to hit some serious snags.

3 – 7% – Much Bigger Numbers in Reality

The values for increased usage may seem relatively small – like the 3 to 7 percent that is fairly standard for many specific regions indicated – but it’s actually quite a jump that is far from normal and it’s a difference that indicates that many users are quite likely experiencing bandwidth congestion.

What has been seen in his is the highest levels of pressure on internet networks is in countries like Italy, Spain, Sweden, Iran and Malaysia. That’s not to suggest residents in other countries aren’t experiencing the same difficulties, it’s just that they’re not on the leaderboard yet.

Now, yes there’s been all sorts of jokes about fully grown men spending long stretches of days playing online games. As funny and somewhat pathetically accurate as the truth of that might be, it’s not just men playing a whole lot of online games and eating up plenty of bandwidth while they slay dragons or whatever it is they do.

However, it turns out that entertainment streaming is a whole lot more gluttonously consumptive when it available bandwidth. Verizon reporting a 75 percent increase in gaming traffic during peak hours is among many different stats and observed behaviours that bear this out.

The More To It

It might then seem to be a legit default conclusion that gaming is the primary source of the increase in internet use. However, that’s not entirely true. The overall bandwidth used by the medium pales in comparison to that of others and a study comparing how much bandwidth gaming consumed compared to online video streaming services found that gamers consumed an average of only 300 megabytes per hour.

In comparison, HD content streamers consumed 3,000 megabytes per hour, and that jumped up to 7K per hour when it’s 4K video. While it’s true streaming companies are trying to limit bandwidth use, there’s really only so much that can be done in that regard and who’s going to give up Netflix n’ Chill, right?

There are some helpful efforts being made though. A number of video streaming companies are now implementing measures to decrease their bandwidth use. Streaming giant Netflix recently stated that they would work to reduce traffic on networks by around 25%.

Baby steps, but progress needs to start somewhere if collectively we’re going to have the infrastructure in place to handle our ever-growing insatiable thirst for Internet-based whatever-it-is we can’t go without at any given time.

If you’d like to see this map, you can click here.

Post Navigation