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MedUX Examines COVID-19 Impact on the Big UK Broadband ISPs

Friday, June 12th, 2020 (2:20 pm) - Score 760
covid-19 virus broadband isp uk

The Spanish information technology firm MedUX has published a short report examining the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on UK broadband ISPs. Overall the report found that fixed networks handled the surge in domestic internet traffic “well” and services remained “reasonably stable,” but there were some weak points.

At this point we’ve probably already covered all that really needs to be said about this topic (examples here, here, here, here and here), but there’s always room to squeeze in a little extra analysis. Most of the previous reports have found a small fall in broadband speed (c. -2% to -3%) and a similar reduction in latency performance, albeit nothing too significant. More recently, as the lockdown eased, internet traffic has started returning to normal.

The results from MedUX are largely based on the nationwide average performance of wired connections to the router (via Ethernet), unless otherwise stated. For this purpose, VDSL (FTTC) and HFC (DOCSIS) connections with speed profiles ranging from 30Mbps up to 100Mbps for the four biggest ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband – have been taken into consideration

In general, the average internet service quality has been stable for most users, although the drop in average compliance with contracted speeds for wired connections (via Ethernet) was the highest during the evening hours of weeks 13 and 14 (see below). On average during those weeks, downlink compliance for 60-100 Mbps speed profiles was up to 4% lower than in the weeks before the lockdown.

NOTE: The bottom X axis (5, 10, 15, 20) represents ‘Time of Day (BST)’, while each coloured line is a different week (e.g. W9 – 24th Feb, W12 – 16th Mar, W13 – 23rd Mar).

medux_broadband_speed_compliance_uk

We can also examine the important figure of latency, which represents the response time (measured in milliseconds, where 1000 milliseconds = 1 second) of how quickly it takes a single packet of data to travel from your computer to a third-party server and back again.

The map below highlights the impact on latency for the lockdown week starting on the 23rd of March (W13) during peak time (20–21h), which shows the percentage of latency increase when compared against the pre-lockdown week beginning on the 24th of February (W9).

medux_broadband_latency_increase

Broadly speaking the increase in latency won’t have actually had too much of a noticeable impact for most users (it may only reflect an extra 1-3ms or so), although it’s notable that the South West and South East saw a much larger increase in latency times.

Meanwhile Packet loss (i.e. when some of the data packets being transmitted go missing or are incorrect), which is connected to latency and can often help to highlight issues of network congestion or faults, had a few spikes over the same period. Generally you’d expect to see loss below 1% but for a brief period it spiked as high as 6%.

medux_broadband_packetloss

The study also looks at the impact on WiFi performance, although the data provided wasn’t detailed or clear enough for us to include.

MedUX Statement

Overall, the UK’s fixed networks have been handling the traffic increase well, and Internet service quality has been reasonably stable, but Customer Experience has been somewhat affected, especially when connected via Wi-Fi, on several days starting March 20th, just a few days before the Government imposed a lockdown on the whole population. By then, schools, colleges, nurseries, restaurants, pubs, clubs and indoor leisure centres were ordered to close their doors nationwide.

At MedUX, we believe that the coronavirus lockdown in the UK will make the Internet and the networks stronger than ever. The service degradation varies across technologies, operators, and regions, but connectivity and service availability have been high.

The UK’s Telco Operators have played a fundamental role in mitigating the effects of the Internet traffic increase by taking reactive and proactive measures to maintain service quality and Customer Experience while supporting society during this time. During these uncharted times, there have been differences in the impact of the lockdown on network performance across Telco Operators. In general, the average Internet service quality has been stable for most users.

MedUX has also posted similar reports for Italy, Spain and Germany, which act as a useful comparison with the United Kingdom.

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar CarlT says:

    There is a massive hole in this data.

    Upload performance?

    The packet loss and latency are liable to being profoundly skewed by the odd Virgin Media node having issues with upstream capacity.

    Other than that networks haven’t hit higher load at peak times than normal. I’m not sure how many ISPs have to recite this over and over again but, Virgin Media aside, lockdown increased the length of the peak period, it did not make the peak higher.

    Virgin Media due to their network experienced localised, sometimes severe, upstream capacity issues resulting in increased latency, loss and obviously lower upstream and to a lesser extent downstream speeds.

    You’re dealing here with 4 different backhaul networks, one access network that runs on entirely different principles from other other, and the rest having nothing in common with one another from the exchange onwards.

    There is no graph that’ll provide UK broadband internet performance.

    The UK’s ‘Internet’ was not overloaded by lockdown. If anything most operators have actually seen a lot of capacity that usually sat idle as people were at work using connections there being consumed.

    Excuse me. These nonsense measurements are really irritating me now. Apples compared with oranges and then wondering why carrots didn’t come out as a result.

  2. Avatar Rainbows are for meaningless squiggly line charts also says:

    2020 The year of Covid-19 and the Gokkun Powerpoint presentation chart.

  3. Avatar Roger_Gooner says:

    Odd that the latency map excludes a figure for London.

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