Behind the numbers: How COVID-19 could change the US telecom industry
As much of the US settles into a “new normal” that includes spending a lot of time on the Internet to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, the nation’s telecom operators are recording new traffic records almost every day.
Importantly, all that traffic may have significant implications – including financial implications – for a wide range of players in the industry.
Beyond those monetary ramifications, the pandemic could even shift the perception of network connections from the nice-to-have category into the must-have category among policy makers and others.
“If it wasn’t clear before this crisis, it is crystal clear now that broadband is a necessity for every aspect of modern civic and commercial life. US policymakers need to treat it that way,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told IEEE.
Indeed, the analysts with Wall Street investment firm New Street Research reported that Congress’ latest coronavirus economic stimulus package positioned Internet connections next to electricity, gas and water as essential utilities worthy of loan forgiveness. The analysts pointed out that this is noteworthy considering Republicans have long opposed the notion of the Internet as a utility.
But first, the numbers
As Americans settle into their new work from home (WFH) reality, network traffic too is beginning to show signs of a “new normal.” The big takeaways are that there’s clearly more traffic, that the growth in traffic is happening during the day, that most of it is traveling over wired connections, and that the networks can handle it. That’s partly because networks are generally designed to handle peaks – such as everyone streaming the Game of Thrones finale on Sunday evening – and therefore can easily handle a bump in usage during the day.
“The Internet as a whole is fine,” Doug Suttles, CEO of the bandwidth-measurement firm Ookla, told FastCompany. “It can handle a ton.”
“The relative strength of our networks gives Americans more options to work and learn from home, to get care remotely, and to keep in touch with family during this stressful period,” crowed FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in a Medium post. “The networks’ reliability owes to massive investment and engineering – and making sure that we have the policies in place to foster that private sector activity.”
In just the past few days, a number of companies, network-monitoring firms and trade associations have stepped forward to disclose their latest COVID-19 traffic figures:
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