NBN experiences unprecedented demand COVID-19 self isolation

As many Australians continue to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, upload demand on nbn’s main wholesale access service has significantly increased.

For the week from Monday 6 April to Sunday 12 April, peak upload throughput (the measure of data flowing through the NBN access network) during daytime business hours increased by 102 per cent to 1.01 terabits per second (Tbps), compared to the last week of February (which nbn Co measures as its normal pre-COVID-19 baseline).

Chief Customer Officer of Residential at nbn Co, Brad Whitcomb, said, “Uploads over the NBN have significantly increased as more Australians use real-time communication applications such as video conferencing to learn and to connect with friends and family, and as the use of online business applications that require strong upload performance, continue to grow.

“While the network continues to perform well, this unprecedented demand on our upstream has impacted a small number of end-user customers when using video conferencing during the busiest periods of the day. 

“We are therefore increasing the upload capacity in order to address this as well as looking at further enhancements to address future demand.”

The new upload figures were published in the latest release of Australian Broadband Data Demand, a weekly report from nbn Co that shows the highest throughput (both upstream and downstream) recorded in a week during each of the following three periods: the daytime business hours, early evening hours and busy evening hours.

NBN Upstream network usage

Upstream network usage

Compared to the pre-COVID-19 baseline, peak upload throughput on the main NBN wholesale service in the evening busy hours for the week beginning 6 April increased by 38 per cent to 1.06Tbps, while peak upload throughput in the early evening hours increased 54 per cent to 1.05Tbps.

“Upload performance is critical for two-way video communication and for people trying to run their business from home. So if your business relies on faster upload speeds we encourage you to talk to your internet provider to ensure you are getting the business-grade features – like priority data and enhanced service levels – to support your business needs,” Mr Whitcomb said.

The increase in uploads over the NBN access network comes as data demand surged on Good Friday (10 April), with more than a 120 per cent increase in downstream throughput to 9.5Tbps during the daytime business hours (as shown in the graph below at 11am), compared to the pre-COVID baseline. Uploads on Good Friday also grew strongly, increasing 93 per cent to 0.77Tbps in the daytime business hours.

While download and upload demand on Good Friday significantly increased when compared to previous weeks, it’s important to note that the network profile on public holidays more closely resembles typical weekend usage when people are at home using their internet connections for communication and entertainment needs.

Downstream throughput on Good Friday peaked at 13.5Tbps, but it remained below the weekly peak that was recorded in the evening busy hours of Wednesday 8 April when network demand reached 13.8Tbps.

Downstream network usage over 24 hours

Wednesday 8 April was the busiest day of the week from Monday 6 April to Sunday 12 April, with week-high peaks recorded across all three time categories. These peaks coincided with an update to the popular video game Call of Duty.

In this same week, the highest weekly download throughput of 13.8Tbps on nbn Co’s main wholesale service was recorded in the evening busy hours of 8 April and represented an increase of 25 cent compared to the pre COVID-19 baseline.

The peak download throughput on the main NBN wholesale service recorded in the early evening hours for the week beginning 6 April was 13.3Tbps, an increase of 36 per cent compared to the pre-COVID-19 baseline.

Downstream network usage

Downstream network usage

The peak download throughput on the main NBN wholesale service recorded during daytime business hours increased by 49 per cent to 11.6Tbps, compared to the pre-COVID-19 baseline.

That daytime peak of 11.6Tbps on 8 April was the first time that download throughput in the daytime business hours had surpassed the pre-COVID-19 baseline evening peak of 11Tbps.

The increases in download and upload throughput (when compared against the pre-COVID-19 baseline) come as orders for higher-speed NBN wholesale plans gather pace.

“As uploads and downloads increase we have seen more orders for higher-speed NBN plans come through our internet provider partners. In the past week, 99 per cent of new NBN wholesale orders were on plans of 25mbps or faster, with 69 per cent on 50Mbps and 16 per cent on 100Mbps or faster,” Mr Whitcomb said.

“These increases in data demand underline the importance of the NBN access network as it continues to support Australians working and studying from home.”

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