As countries and governments respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting social distancing and working from home, these initiatives have caused significant changes to the ways businesses and consumers access and use the internet. Before the virus outbreak, mobile broadband was increasingly the technology of choice for Internet access and video streaming. During the second half of March 2020, a large percentage of the overall U.S. population embraced stay at home orders, causing North American wireless providers’ data speeds to dip, as shown in the following graph. Increasingly, fixed broadband connections are offloading mobile networks, carrying mobile device traffic via Wi-Fi.
Internet traffic spikes related to COVID-19 are primarily affecting wired networks, driving increases in voice traffic, texting and web traffic as people shift to this new norm.
|Core Network Traffic||+24% month to month|
|Consumer home voice calls||+45% vs typical day|
|Wi-Fi calling minutes||+97% vs typical day|
|Text messaging||+46% in the last 2.5 weeks|
|Audio, web and video conferencing||+400% more minutes in the last 2-3 weeks|
|Large-scale webcast events||+200% vs typical day|
This rapid change in network utilization raises the question about overall network capacity and how the industry will respond to these shifting market requirements. First, U.S.-based wired telecom and cable networks are designed to have sufficient capacity in place to handle “surge events” that escalate network utilization by 30 percent or more, including large sporting events, elections, major news stories and major video game releases. Mother’s Day is the highest volume day for voice traffic, for example, so networks are optimized around this constraint.
Second, network operators adopt Quality-of-Service (QoS) traffic management techniques to manage the myriad types of traffic carried across the network, prioritizing latency-sensitive traffic such as voice at the expense of data and video.
Third, streaming providers including Netflix use adaptive bit rate (ABR) technology to provide different levels of video and audio quality based on consumer subscriptions (e.g. HD, 4K UHD). This ABR technology ensures subscribers get the level of video and audio quality they are paying for as much as possible but at the lowest bit-rate that can be supported without inducing buffering. In more bandwidth-constrained networks in Europe, streaming providers Netflix, YouTube, Apple, Disney and Amazon have taken the further step of reducing their streaming speeds during the COVID-19 crisis to minimize strain on broadband networks.
But the single most important thing that network providers have done to ensure sufficient network capacity is in place to deploy higher bandwidth links across the network. Figure 2 shows an end-to-end wired/wireless communications network connecting residential, enterprise and mobile subscribers to the Internet and cloud.
Network operators are transitioning to higher speed networks to meet surging demand for bandwidth and to ensure the network does not become a bottleneck in deploying new services. These physical layer networks require high-performance, low-noise timing solutions to minimize the bit-error rate of high-speed SerDes used to serially transmit data across wired networks. In addition, high-performance, low-noise timing solutions optimize the signal quality of wireless networks and help minimize intracell interference. The table below summarizes the bandwidth requirements of different portions of the 5G network for application.
|Data Center/Cloud||40G --> 100/200/400G|
|Metro/Core/Packet Optical||100G --> 200/400/600/800G|
|Enterprise Networks||GbE --> 10/100G|
|Residential Networks||1G --> 10G|
|Backhaul/Midhaul/Fronthaul||10G --> 25G|
|Wireless (RRU/BBU)||10Mbps+ (4G) --> 50Mbps+ (5G)|
The world is facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many technology companies around the world, we are doing our part to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and enable people everywhere to access the information they need while staying at home and working from home. We are proud to provide high-performance timing solutions to address the rapidly growing demand for network reliability and bandwidth across the globe.