Increase in WiFi, VPN, and Mobile Use Because of COVID-19
Although the demand for WiFi has greatly increased due to workers and students being required to work and learn from home, statistics regarding the increase in bandwidth are not yet accessible as revealed by an FCC member. Insights regarding the increase of WiFi usage and statistics regarding corporate VPN usage and mobile bandwidth are provided below.
- AT&T's CEO is addressing a major surge in mobile and WiFi usage as the epidemic leads to more people relying on the internet as they work from home and schools have moved online. AT&T itself has 90,000 people that are now working from home. The company cites that WiFi calling volumes are up 100%. AT&T has suspended data caps for home internet broadband service before the FCC introduced the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to prevent telecom companies from taking advantage of the "work-from-home situation".
- The increase in VPN servers, video conferencing platforms, and residential broadband will significantly strain residential broadband networks. It is questionable if residential broadband with lower capacity than robust business networks will be able to handle the increase in demand. FCC member Jessica Rosenworcel states that the influx of remote work is going to be a big test of the networks, however it is too soon to assess how the networks are handling it.
- Verizon issued a press release on March 18 that cited the demands on bandwidth had increased by 75% over the previous week, however they noted on March 12th that there was no noticeable change in data usage.
- Cox has automatically upgraded users of its broadband internet to packages with 50 megabits per second to help with the rise in internet use and apps that require more bandwidth. AT&T, Verizon, and Charter are preparing to increase bandwidth capacity on their networks if needed with more equipment for upgrading networks and emergency roll-in cell towers.
- Some customers that were experiencing issues have received correspondence from Comcast noting that they will be increasing their bandwidth to help meet the growing need.
- On March 16th, it was reported that overall internet traffic in Seattle increased 30% compared to any week in January which is when the increases in traffic after the first positive case began.
- The surge in Americans working from home due to the pandemic has led to a "huge spike" in people using VPNs to work securely. NordVPN revealed that the global use of its VPN technology had increased 165% since March 11th. The US and the UK have seen rises in VPN usage of 66% and 48%, respectively, but this number is expected to grow to mirror the levels seen in other countries such as France, Belgium, and Denmark which have experienced growths between 180% and 190%.
- Atlas VPN saw use of its VPN traffic in the US increase by 53% between March 9th through March 15th as businesses and corporations need to protect sensitive information as they send their employees to work from home. VPNs are essential for remote working, however, corporate VPNs are expected to crash as they are developed to be used by a subgroup of employees and not the 750,000 Amazon employees that are expected to work from home for example.
- The company estimates that VPN usage in the US will increase over 150% by the end of the month, and may rise even higher if the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
- The increase in VPN servers, video conferencing platforms, and residential broadband will significantly strain residential broadband networks.
- Remote Desktop Protocol and VPN usage has "skyrocketed" by 41% and 33%, respectively.the number of RDP endpoints has risen by 1.1 billion since the start of the year. The number of servers running VPN protocols like IKE and PPTP has increased by a third, from 7.5 million systems to almost 10 million as of March 29th.
- Consumer VPN usage has also increased and it is estimated that the overall VPN market has increased by 65% when compared to last quarter.
- AT&T CEO is addressing a major surge in mobile and WiFi usage as the epidemic leads to more people relying on the internet. They cite that mobile volumes have increased by 40%.
- In order to boost bandwidth during the pandemic, T-Mobile is borrowing 600MHz band from Dish, Comcast, and other companies. The FCC granted T-Mobile the temporary authority for the increase in the spectrum for 60 days. Prior to the increase, T-Mobile already had 600MHz-band licenses, or 45% of the available spectrum, that it purchased for $8 billion from a spectrum auction in 2017.
- T-Mobile uses the 600MHz spectrum for 4G and 5G, however 600MHz is low-band and better suited to cover large, sparsely populated areas. The FCC states that it is dedicated to helping Americans work and learn from home and connect remotely to health care professionals during the pandemic, and thanks the following companies for making their spectrum available: Dish, Comcast, NewLevel, LB License Co, Channel 51, Omega, Bluewater, and TStar License Holdings.
- T-Mobile also suspended data caps upgrading everyone to unlimited data and expanded roaming access for Sprint customers to use the T-Mobile network which expanded roaming access at tens of thousands of locations nationwide, schools, and families including in rural areas for 60 days. In addition, T-Mobile gave customers an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot and tethering services.
- Verizon issued a press release on March 18 that cited the demands on bandwidth had increased by 75% over the previous week.