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Comcast: Pandemic drove peak internet traffic up 32% in 2020

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Comcast said that peak internet traffic rose 32% in 2020 over pre-pandemic levels, with some markets rising 50% in some markets in March 2020.

Video streaming accounted for 71% of all downstream traffic, and it grew 70% over 2019 levels. Comcast said that the first four months of the pandemic resulted in about two years of expected network traffic growth.

As tens of millions of Americans transitioned to working and learning from home, the biggest surge occurred in March and April of last year.

Tony Werner, president of technology, product, and experience at Comcast Cable, said in a statement that years of strategic investment in the network paid off. The company invested $15 billion in network improvements from 2017 to 2020.

Peak downstream traffic in 2020 increased 38% over 2019 levels and peak upstream traffic increased 56% over 2019 levels. Despite the growth in upstream traffic, traffic patterns remained highly asymmetrical, as downstream traffic volumes were 14 times higher than upstream traffic volumes throughout 2020.

Above: Comcast technician

Image Credit: Comcast

Surprisingly, despite increases in videoconferencing activity, entertainment activities continued to dominate network traffic, 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%), and web browsing (8%).

Despite growth in videoconferencing traffic, it still only accounted for less than 5% of overall network usage. For the first time, as Comcast customers surfed, streamed and emailed more than ever before, they generated more than a trillion internet requests (DNS lookups) each day.

Comcast said it delivered above-advertised speeds to customers across the country, including in areas most affected by COVID-19. From 2017 through 2020, the company built an additional 39,153 route miles of fiber into the network.

Comcast’s AI software platform, Octave, enabled Comcast to increase upstream capacity by up to 36% at the time when traffic levels began to surge.

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