Friday, 17 April 2020 14:26

NBN uploads soar during COVID-19 lockdown


The NBN has seen a substantial increase in upload traffic as the COVID-19 lockdown changes the way we use the internet.

Business hours peak upload traffic more than doubled to 1.01Tbps in the week of 6 April 2020, compared with the pre-lockdown baseline set in the last week of February.

The additional traffic came from the increased use of videoconferencing and business applications, according to NBN Co.

There were also substantial increases in uploads during the early evening and evening periods. Peak evening busy hours uploads 38% to 1.06Tbps, and peak early evening uploads increased 54% to 1.05Tbps.

"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," said NBN Co chief customer officer – residential Brad Whitcomb.

NBN upload graph 6 April 2020

NBN upstream network usage

The additional traffic apparently ran into the limits of the network's capacity: "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, Whitcomb added.

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

Downloads have also increased significantly. The evening busy hours are still the busiest, and peak traffic increased 25% to 13.8Tbps.

Business hours upload traffic rose 49% to 11.6Tbps, but that's still well below the evening peak. That said, that peak – which occurred on 8 April – was the first time that daytime download surpassed the pre-COVID-19 evening peak of 11Tbps.

It's probably no coincidence that a Call of Duty update arrived on 8 April.

The change in patterns of use have had an effect on the speeds selected by customers.

"In the past week, 99% of new NBN wholesale orders were on plans of 25mbps or faster, with 69% were on 50Mbps and 16 per cent were on 100Mbps or faster," 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."

Image: Lyncconf via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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