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Comcast: 70% growth in streaming traffic as the US goes WFH
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

With knowledge workers across the globe closing in on a year of work from home (WFH), Comcast, which has the largest user footprint among U.S.-based ISPs, has announced that Internet traffic soared across their network during of the pandemic.

Peak downstream traffic increased approximately 38 percent over previous-year levels in March 2020 alone, while peak upstream traffic increased approximately 56 percent over the period. In just the first four months of lockdown, Comcast’s network experienced almost two years-worth of traffic growth.

Video conferencing (read: Zoom and Teams calls) and entertainment activities dominated network traffic over the period, with video streaming accounting for 71 percent of all downstream traffic, and growing by 70 percent over 2019 levels.

Other key drivers of downstream traffic in 2020 were online gaming and the accompanying software downloads (10 percent), and web browsing (8 percent).

Crowded last mile

In total, 62 percent of Comcast customers worked from home at some point during the past year, doubling the number of users WFH in March 2019, the report found, while 93 percent of Comcast households with school-age children reported that they took part in distance learning.

This convergence of users and new solutions put unprecedented pressure on both Comcast networks and the residential environments supporting these last-mile connections. Many residences simply aren’t equipped to handle commercial-grade internet capacity, not to mention many residential internet contracts don’t include commercial-grade capacity guarantees or SLAs.

Infrastructure investments for the future

While the pandemic certainly caught every business off guard, it only acted to accelerate global Internet traffic patterns in a direction that Comcast had already started investing heavily in. From 2017 through 2020, the company built 39,153 route miles of optic fiber cabling into their network, while investing more than $15 billion in total toward network expansion.

In October 2020, Comcast announced that they had developed an innovative edge-computing design for delivering 1.25Gbps upload and download speeds over live production networks out to residences. This, Comcast says, is part of a long-term strategy with other global telecommunications and cable operators globally to eventually enable up to 10Gbps network speeds across existing networks without calling for timely infrastructure overhauls.

The Internet was a bright spot during the darkest hours of 2020, keeping hundreds of millions of people connected to work, school, entertainment, and most importantly, each other,” said Tony Werner, President of Technology, Product, Xperience at Comcast Cable. “We’re proud of the years of strategic investment and innovation that enabled us to build the foundation of a high-speed, intelligent network designed to scale to the needs of our most demanding users, and also adapt to unexpected events.”

Reaching these speeds is more than just a necessity of the pandemic, however long the current situation keeps large portions of the workforce from returning to the office. According to a study on the benefits of reaching 10Gbps speeds in the U.S., reaching the goal holds the promise of generating at least $330 billion in total economic output and more than 676,000 new jobs over seven years.

But increasing network capacity out to end users at home is only part of the solution to ensuring that user experience is optimal wherever users are located, whether they’re logging in from home or commuting to the remote office. IT teams need visibility out to and beyond the traditional network edge to understand what they’re working with in terms of both infrastructure and traffic to truly assure optimal performance.

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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: internet, network manamgenet, enterprise network, distance learning, remote learning, remote workforce, last mile network, last mile internet, internet capacity, remote work, residential internet, internet service provider, ISP, internet, comcast, work from home, work from anywhere, network performance monitoring

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