HOBOKEN, N.J.—Broadband usage climbed 47% in the first quarter of the year—nearly surpassing expected growth for all of 2020—as the public quarantines to limit possible exposure to the COVID-19 illness, according to the latest usage report from OpenVault.
“Nearly all the growth in broadband usage we would have expected for 2020 has now been achieved in the first quarter, with much of it concentrated in the last two weeks of the quarter,” says the Q1 2020 OpenVault Broadband Insights report. “The COVID-19 pandemic changed broadband usage patterns in substantial ways, perhaps permanently.”
At the end of the first quarter, average monthly broadband consumption jumped to 402.5 GB, a 47% increase over the 273.5 GB registered for the same period last year and a 17% rise over the 344 GB in the fourth quarter of 2019, says the report. In April, monthly usage was on track for 460 GB, the report says.
OpenVault’s forecast made earlier in the year for monthly broadband consumption by the end of 2020 was 425 GB, according to the report.
The sharpest growth was among what OpenVault terms “power users,” who consume 1 TB or more, and “extreme power users,” who consume 2 TB or more. In the first quarter, 10% of broadband subscribers were power users, up 138% over the first quarter of 2019 when 4.2% were power users, it says.
Extreme power users in the quarter represented 1.2% of the total, a 215% increase from the same quarter in 2019.
The report also finds:
- Broadband quotas were relaxed in much of March, and subscribers with usage-based billing plans (UBB) responded, increasing usage 49.05% for the quarter, while those with flat-rate billing (FRB) plans grew usage 44.42%.
- Median usage across UBB and FRB plans was 233.6 GB, up 60% from 146 GB in the first quarter last year and up 22% from 190.7 GB at the end of 2019. The rate of increase in median growth accelerated to 122% during the first quarter of 2020.
- As more people rely on videoconferencing to work from home during the pandemic, upstream usage rose sharply in March.
- Increased use looks to be motivating subscribers to increase speeds. Subscribers provisioned for gigabit-speed service grew 97% to 3.75% in the first quarter—up from the same quarter in 2019 when 1.9% were so outfitted. The figure also represents a rise of 34% from the 2.8% level registered at the end of 2019.
“Broadband operators will need to understand the implications of this shifting broadband usage behavior and plan their network performance capabilities accordingly,” says the report.
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