Over the past six months we’ve learned the important role residential internet plays in our daily and professional lives. With a projected 55 million Americans expected to continue working from home post-pandemic, we are now seeing a permanent shift towards a distributed and modern workforce. This also means greater reliance on a strong and stable internet connection.
In March, new usage and Quality of Experience data emerged from the surge of shelter-in-place internet activity. By April, average monthly usage jumped to 402.8gb per household, a 26% spike from January and a 47% increase from the previous year.
To accommodate this new demand, ISPs and carriers took drastic steps to increase speeds and lift data caps on residential customers to support work from home. While most networks previously planned out additional capacity over years, the pandemic forced telecoms to act faster in order to maintain connectivity.
This spike in internet activity coincides with the large uptake in streaming, gaming, and teleconferencing. Average daily use in 2020 has already exceeded the highest usage peaks of 2019.
This includes single-day records for the major video conferencing applications, like a 2,900% increase in Zoom participants, 2.7 billion minutes spent in Microsoft Teams, and 3,800 years spent in Google Meet. Again, all in a single day.
Several of these applications saw triple-digit increases in search volume as work-from-home users sought out ways to maintain communication with colleagues and collaborators. Zoom witnessed a 1,562% increase in daily search volume over February and March.
But most of these applications are running over connections that are not equipped to handle the heavy upstream demand of video conferencing. Over these periods of high use, upload traffic has doubled, rising at a faster pace than the infrastructure was built for. This is one of the reasons 52.9% of Americans experience monthly connectivity problems.
Daily, 15.5% of users encounter some degradation to Quality of Experience. Over a video call, these dips in connectivity manifest as delays, glitches, and breaks in communication. Eventually, poor Quality of Experience results in a loss of productivity. Not just for the user, but for everyone participating in the call.
With 42.8 million Americans living without access to stable broadband, it’s clear that most residential homes do not have the enterprise-grade internet needed to support the data-hungry apps of remote work. Around 10 million live with poor cell signal and daily internet connectivity issues, which will not be conducive to communications or productivity.
Teleconferencing requires uninterrupted transfers of data packets, a need that only grows for large groups and screen sharing. This will be a major challenge for employers who look to embrace the benefits of a long-term remote strategy (link to modern and distributed post).
More than half of all Americans say that the internet has been essential during COVID-19, especially for those who plan to work from home in the future. Nearly 43% of full-time employees hope to stay remote, if possible. To do so successfully, companies, carriers, and employees will need to see a boost in connectivity.