The Impact of Social Distancing on Internet Trends

By Roan Nieuwenhuizen

Some interesting stats on internet trends this past week in regards to “Social Distancing”: there is no surprise to see an increase in volume across most ISP networks in South Africa. We see not just an increase in traffic volume during peak (18:00 – 23:00), but that the duration of the peak period is clearly increasing too (16:00 – 00:00).

What traffic increase can we expect in South Africa?

  1. Video streaming will increase: Not a groundbreaking prediction, but people that are working from home that are not used to it get distracted easily by the TV. It will be all video streaming — not just Netflix. The first sign that I have seen an increase in is actually YouTube and TikTok as people seek more information on the virus and what to do and see what other countries are doing.
  2. VPN traffic will increase: This is a small portion of traffic in many places, but a lot of remote work will affect upstream usage more than downstream as people connect to company resources in the office remotely.
  3. Video conferencing and messaging will increase: Messaging and video conferences (Zoom, Slack, etc.) will spike as people turn to remote interaction tools. This is happening, but still a very small part of traffic usage. Messaging will also increase as people use social networking sharing to update people on status and, frankly, because they are bored.
  4. Gaming will spike: We already have seen signs of this — downloads for PlayStation and Xbox have increased their volume to be the 5th and 6th highest contributor to total downstream bandwidth, previously not making the top 10 list.

In other countries, we’ve seen governments take drastic measures to try and reduce the amount of bandwidth by forcing streaming applications down to Lower Definition (LD) in a attempt to prevent the network from collapsing.

London (CNN Business) Netflix will reduce streaming quality in Europe for at least the next month to prevent the internet collapsing under the strain of unprecedented usage due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company said it would reduce the bit rate of all its video streams for 30 days. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement.
~ Read more here: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/19/tech/netflix-internet-overload-eu/index.html

So, the question is — can our local ISP’s network handle these increases? Only time will tell, as social distancing will be more enforced and the probability of lockdown is looming…

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