As expected, the huge change in our lives due to Covid-19 is matched by an equal change in network behavior in the UK. Openreach via ISPReview is reporting an average increase of 25% across their networks in the UK between February and April.
Depending on the perspective of who you ask, this network traffic could be aimed at business workers who are working from home and that is probably part of the narrative. Yet, given the measures that Netflix and other streaming providers have put in place to reduce load on their services, it is likely that much of this is also domestic. An interesting point is that evening traffic is not noted as having increased much, the concentration is mostly in the daytime.
Looking at the numbers, it seems that the network is handling the new levels of demand fine. Ookla also on ISPreview reported that speeds had been maintained at a +3% – 3% variable throughout this period. This coupled with Claranet’s research into Round Trip Times for data which have remained steady despite the increase in traffic paints a good picture about the flexibility and scalability of the internet.
However, there are issues creating pain points, and when speaking to industry professionals several areas have been flagged as creating problems. There are local issues, with in-house WiFi routers competing for device traffic and on remote last miles that likely had issues before this increase. There are specific issues at some companies who did not have enough inbound VPN capacity to handle the new amount of traffic that needed to be brought into the company.
Business woman working from home
Many of the business problems with this transition are being eased by the fact that lots of the businesses I speak to have the systems in place already or were planning to have home working as an option within the next year. In the SME segment, many of these systems were already deployed and cloud base. The flexibility of these solutions meant that working from home was not a large technological, however, the cultural change has been a source of friction at many companies.
In recent research Cavell did of the Service Provider markets response to Covid-19, beyond technology, many companies were reporting that cultural, and management problems were a large concern. It seems even where the solutions can scale to handle the need, there is a cultural shift. This is where service providers can differentiate themselves.
Many service providers will be working to handle the technological needs of the current challenge. The network is holding up well, but people still need solutions for communication, network management and security. However, providing these and providing them well is your baseline.
Companies that can provide not only tools but also advice and guidance on how to integrate those solutions into corporate culture through strong use cases from other customers will find themselves invaluable in this time. Cavell is doing its part as well, gathering stories, doing surveys and writing articles like this which highlight the key challenges the industry faces.
I think the thing to take away from this article and this crisis, is that like many developments, with cloud and the trends that have been going, the technology is there. The part of the equation that might take some time to adjust is the human part of the equation, and as the telecoms industry we all have to make sure we are factoring that insight into our outreach and dealings.