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UK Broadband Traffic Hits New Peak, ISPs Report

A clutch of Premier League matches streaming on Amazon Prime boosted traffic on several of the UK’s largest broadband networks to new records last Wednesday, 1 December.

TalkTalk said traffic on its network peaked at 8.1Tbps (Terabits per second) at 9 pm on 1 December, as Brits turned in to a number of football matches.

That record is 6.5% higher than the previous highest peak seen on TalkTalk’s network: 7.6Tbps, set in December last year, also on the back of Premier League matches.

Phil Haslam, chief technology officer with the budget ISP, said: “Last night’s network peak demonstrates that our appetite for data (and great sport) is showing no signs of slowing down. When Amazon Prime streams football matches, it adds a big surge in demand on our network. That’s because our customers stream the action in real time, and Amazon Prime show multiple games simultaneously so more people watch at once. 

“The last thing any fan wants is to miss their team score, so our brilliant engineering teams worked through the night this week to make sure our network ran smoothly,” he added.

At the same time, BT’s network was handling its highest volume of traffic yet: 25.5Tbps, 12% higher than the previous record set last December.

Sky also reported a “highest ever peak” on its broadband network that evening: 19.9Tbps. Director of Propositions at Sky Broadband Aman Bhatti said traffic was boosted by customers watching Premier League matches in HD or UHD, which Sky’s network accommodates.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to providing customers with the fastest and most reliable broadband, 98% of streamers on our network watched the games unfold in HD or UHD quality—up 12% year on year,” Bhatti said.

With data-intensive activities like HD streaming and video calls becoming an increasingly key part of our lives, each year will likely deliver higher traffic peaks—likely in December, when more people are staying indoors and the Premier League season is in full swing. Faster broadband services, including the gigabit connections now available to 63% of UK premises, are making these activities more seamless than ever, further increasing traffic. 

While new peaks like those recorded this month earn headlines, broadband traffic volumes have been rising by 30% each year over the last few years. ISPs have been able to accommodate this surge by investing in their infrastructure. But they’re also passing on these costs: broadband providers have recently been hiking bills by 2-3% each year. And more punishing price increases are in the works. A number of ISPs, including BT and TalkTalk have written into new contracts provisions for annual price increases of the rate of inflation (CPI) plus 3.7%-3.9%. 

With the CPI hitting 3.8% in October and inflation forecast to remain high through the winter, broadband customers could be looking at price hikes of nearly 8% in the spring.

In fact, BT indicated to investment bank UBS recently that “it could be willing to put through 7-8% price rises given current high levels of inflation,” Polo Tang, analyst at UBS, said.

However, rivals may not necessarily follow. In fact, Vodafone and TalkTalk have recently launched broadband connections at deep discounts.

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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