Virgin Media reveals lockdown leap in broadband traffic


  • Virgin Media households have downloaded an extra 325GB on average during lockdown so far making use of their ultrafast speeds
  • Customers now using enough extra data to watch 3.5 hours more Netflix and send tens of thousands of emails every single day
  • Northern Irish customers are downloading the most and Scottish customers the least in the evening busy period
  • ‘New normal’ pattern suggests easing of lockdown measures is only leading to a small decline in data use

Virgin Media has published new network data which reveals the dramatic impact of the coronavirus lockdown on how customers using their broadband services.

The network insights reveal how a ‘new normal’ has been established over the emergency period, during which Virgin Media customers have been using significantly more data. Since lockdown started, every Virgin Media broadband customer has downloaded an extra 3.4GB of data per day on average when compared with download levels in February – the month before lockdown measures began. That’s enough additional usage for every customer to watch two films – or around 3.5 hours of Netflix video – every day, in addition to how they used their broadband before the emergency period.

During the busiest week of the lockdown, Virgin Media customers were downloading a third more data than before, burning through an extra 32.5GB compared to February. With that much additional broadband use, an average consumer would be able to stream more than 40 hours of standard definition video, receive more than 5,000 emails and listen to than 700 hours of music. This extra activity means that in total, the average user has downloaded an extra 325GB of data since lockdown started on top of what they’d normally use.

These increases come as 99% of Virgin Media customers are now taking speeds of 100Mbps or more, resulting in an average network speed that is more than double the UK average. This has meant that Virgin Media households have had some of the nation’s best broadband to help them stay connected during the lockdown.

When it comes to upstream traffic – data sent by people while on video calls or sending emails – the relative change is even bigger. With more people remote working, gaming and socialising online, Virgin Media customers are now uploading an extra 3.7GB each week which is enough extra data for every customer to make 14 hours of 1-1 high-quality video calls on Zoom or send a staggering 185,000 emails.

Regional variations

Virgin Media’s usage data also varies significantly between regions. Consumers in London have made the biggest shift to consuming content online and have been downloading 20 per cent more throughout the emergency period. Meanwhile, Wales has seen the smallest change with just 10 per cent growth in download traffic. Virgin Media’s customers in Northern Ireland top the table for overall peak use while Scottish customers download the least of all the UK regions during the busiest 8pm-10pm period.

When it comes to upload traffic, Northern Irish customers have made the biggest change, with peak data use increasing by 58% during lockdown. Yorkshire and the Humber sits at the bottom of the list but with users still uploading 41% more data than they were before lockdown started. Despite faster growth rates elsewhere, London and the Home Counties used more upstream data per user than anywhere else in the evening peak, while Welsh users appear to be making less evening video calls with the lowest average upload traffic of any region.

Long-standing trends

As lockdown measures have gradually eased, there has been a slight decline in data consumption compared to the busiest weeks, although newly established patterns such as daytime upstream traffic more than doubling have remained.

Virgin Media claims that fears of broadband networks not being able to cope with increased usage during lockdown haven’t materialised despite customers using their connections more intensively than ever. The vast majority of Virgin Media customers are receiving speeds faster than their headline package speed i.e. more than 200Mbps on the M200 service.

Says Jeanie York, Virgin Media’s Chief Technology and Information Officer:

“Despite a surge in demand as people have relied on their broadband more than ever, our network has proved itself reliable and resilient and helped keep people connected to loved ones, work and entertainment.

“This is a new dawn for broadband usage; the way people use their connectivity has irrevocably changed and we expect Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on patterns of data consumption.”

Chris Price
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