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Openreach Saw Broadband Traffic Double Across 2020


Somewhat unsurprisingly after our year of Zoom meetings and Netflix binges, the amount of internet data we’re using has more than doubled since 2019.

Openreach (BT), owner of most of the UK’s broadband infrastructure, reports that traffic over its network more than doubled, from 22,000 petabytes (PB) in 2019 to 50,000 PB in 2020. (For context, there are one million gigabytes—GB—in a petabyte.)

The average property connected to Openreach’s fibre networks, including FTTC and FTTP, consumed 3,000GB of data annually, or around 9GB a day.

Internet usage has been steadily trending upwards for years but received a massive lift last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. While we were collectively using around 2,700PB of data per month in January and February, monthly consumption climbed to more than 4,000PB for the rest of the year.

When the first lockdown began in March, Openreach quickly registered a 30% increase in daytime traffic as millions swapped office cubicles and classrooms for kitchen tables.

But the busiest months came after the first and strictest lockdown thawed. We used the most data in August (4,894PB), followed by October (4,850PB) and December (4,722PB).

Boxing Day was the busiest day of the year for web surfing with a record 210PB of data transmitted over Openreach’s network as we made video calls to family and friends, streamed Netflix and live sports and downloaded video games to new consoles.

It was followed closely by Saturday, 14 November (209PB), when hundreds of thousands tuned into rugby on Amazon, and Saturday, 15 August (195.9PB), when another update for popular video game Call of Duty was released. Many data spikes throughout the year followed updates for popular PlayStation, PC and Xbox games, especially Call of Duty and Fortnite.

Openreach’s network accommodated the increased traffic, the company said, with no major outages.

Colin Lees, CTIO of Openreach, said: “In terms of capacity, our network has coped well during the pandemic. We have a team of tech experts working hard behind-the scenes to make sure there’s enough network capacity for every eventuality. They’re constantly preparing for things such as major retail events like Black Friday or the release of the latest big ticket TV and film titles on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.”

Openreach’s data echoes that released by TalkTalk, which mostly delivers services over Openreach’s network. The budget ISP previously reported that internet traffic on its network increased by 50% this year and repeatedly set new daily records. 

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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