NBN Co report: data demand continues through COVID-19 pandemic

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NBN Co has released its latest weekly report into how Australian households are using the network during the COVID-19 pandemic – and to no-one’s surprise, demand is still sky-high.

The company’s Australian Broadband Data Demand report has shown that while data usage is beginning to subside, it’s still much higher than the ‘normal’ usage patterns recorded in February 2020. NBN Co measured downloads and uploads made during business hours, the early evening and in peak evening hours, giving Australians a snapshot into just how heavily we’re relying on our home internet during periods of isolation.

Measuring the week beginning Monday, 4 May 2020 (ending Sunday, 10 May 2020), NBN Co recorded a peak download throughput of 12.6 Terabits per second (Tbps) on Saturday, 9 May. Although this is lower than the record-breaking peak of 13.9 Tbps recorded on Wednesday, 29 April, it’s still a 14% increase on data downloaded in the same busy hours in the last week of February.

Last week’s download throughput fell by around 9%, which could be attributed to the gradual loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in several Australian states. However, according to NBN Co, the 13.9 Tbps peak measurement noted on 29 April did coincide with major updates to popular video games, which would explain a temporary jump in downloads.

Overall, download throughput remained higher than average across all major usage periods, with an early evening hours peak of 11.3Tbps (up 15% from February) and business hours peak of 8.5Tbps (an increase of 9%).

Uploads have also spiked in the past eight weeks, with upstream network usage on the morning of 8 May up by 116% compared to 28 February. As of last week, peak evening busy hours throughput has increased by 30% to 1Tbps when compared to February, and business hours use is up by a huge 93%, peaking at 0.97Tbps.

Graph of NBN data increase
Image: NBN Co

Data demands still high

Putting aside the jargon, NBN traffic is still high and demands on the network remain strong. If you’ve been underwhelmed by your NBN speeds and performance lately, then the increased strain caused by millions of Australians working, studying, gaming, streaming, and shopping from home could be the culprit.

“Although some social distancing measures are beginning to ease in some states and territories, Australian households are still depending on the network for work, school and to socialise with family and friends,” said Brad Whitcomb, Chief Customer Officer at NBN Co.

“More than 7 million homes and businesses are now connected to the NBN, and we continue to add thousands more every week.”

Both NBN Co and internet service providers originally anticipated the surge in traffic after the introduction of social distancing measures. NBN Co announced in mid-March that it will permit providers to buy up to 40% more capacity at no extra cost, allowing telcos to provide more bandwidth to their customers without incurring extra financial strain.

The Australian Government also worked with NBN Co to launch a $150 million relief package, aimed at helping low-income families get connected at a heavily subsidised price. Other measures, such as a reduction in the video quality offered by streaming services Netflix and Stan, have also been introduced to help the NBN cope during peak traffic periods.

NBN Co: business as usual, but safer

Despite the heightened demand and unique challenges caused by COVID-19, NBN Co continues to focus on completing its scheduled roll out and making technicians available for installation, repairs and maintenance.

Along with stricter health and safety measures designed to protect employees and customers from potentially spreading COVID-19, NBN Co has introduced a new SMS system to confirm customer well-being prior to the arrival of field technicians.. Text messages will be sent out to all residential or business customers expecting an on-site technician visit to connect or maintain their NBN service.

“The NBN Co team has been working tirelessly to help keep Australians connected when they need it most,” said Mr Whitcomb.

“This simple use of technology is a great way to provide peace of mind to customers and help to protect our field technicians from unwittingly attending premises where someone is in quarantine, unwell, or where the resident would simply prefer to defer their appointment.”

If you’re planning to connect the NBN, but unsure about installation during the pandemic, we’ve answered your questions here.

Find a better NBN plan

Unhappy with your current plan or provider? We’ve compiled several plan picks across each NBN speed tier in the below tables.

Unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.


Image: Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

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