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Virgin Media UK Sets New Traffic Record on Call of Duty Surge

Thursday, March 4th, 2021 (9:19 am) - Score 6,504
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Broadband ISP Virgin Media reports that internet download traffic on their network hit a new record on Thursday 25th Feb 2021, with the average user consuming a whopping 20.77GB (GigaBytes) of data in a single 24-hour period (3.5GB more than the daily average in 2020). An update to the Call of Duty: Warzone game was partly to blame.

The provider has also analysed the behaviour of their customers across January and February 2021 to reveal some key changes, with weekday afternoons becoming the busiest time of day for upstream traffic (e.g. video calling, sending emails and uploading files etc.) for the first time ever.

The peak period for people sending data is now between 2pm and 4pm, a core period for many remote workers and home learners, and represents a shift away from the long-established pattern of evenings (particularly after 6pm) being the busiest time on the network. All of this reflects the changes in society and working from home due to COVID-19.

During this new afternoon peak period, upstream traffic has increased three-fold on pre-pandemic levels and is up 35% on the first lockdown, although Virgin Media doesn’t provide any actual traffic figures to help support this.

Download traffic has also increased during the third national lockdown. Throughout January and February, as schools were closed and temperatures plummeted, customers downloaded an extra 7.4GB of data per day when compared to the same time last year (pre-lockdown). This means customers are now using 3.1GB more data each day than during the first lockdown peak.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Virgin Media, said:

“Our network is carrying more data than ever as consumers continue to adapt and embrace new technology that helps them work, learn, socialise and stay entertained from home.

We’re committed to keeping up with demand and helping our customers stay connected at a time when our ultrafast and reliable services have never been more important to millions of people’s lives.”

As usual, we should point out that demand for data is constantly rising and so new peaks of usage are being set all the time by every ISP (usage typically grows by 30%+ each year), although COVID-19 has certainly helped to ensure that the increase seen over the past 12-months has been much more dramatic than usual. We should add that the release of new video game consoles from Microsoft and Sony will have played their part too.

One other contributing factor to the surge in usage seen during 2020 could also be the growing rollout and take-up of gigabit-capable broadband networks and packages. But we should add that most ISPs also employ Content Delivery Networks (CDN) to help manage the load, which caches popular content closer in the network to end-users (i.e. improves performance without network strain).

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Andrew Campling says:

    @MarkJ
    Whilst CDNs certainly help with manage network load at the moment, it is possible that this will be undermined if the use of the HTTPS-over-DNS encrypted DNS protocol takes off, depending on how it is implemented. This is partly because some resolver operators are reluctant or unwilling to share the data necessary for network operators to route traffic efficiently.

    From the perspective of end-users, this could result in greater latency affecting some activities and could also see prices rise if the off-net costs of ISPs increase.

    1. Avatar Andrew says:

      If the CDN is anycast based (routing rather than DNS) then that should avoid the issue of DNS encryption.

      Pretty much how 8.8.8.8 etc already direct you to the nearest node, which might be on-net for the end-user anyway.

    2. Avatar Randy says:

      Absolute tosh.

      Nice advert for yourself in the icon tho..

    3. Avatar Kim says:

      It’s Cloudflare’s decision. Please don’t spread misinformation about Dns over https. Google supports both Dns over https and ECH subnet, which solves your problem.

    4. Avatar Andrew Campling says:

      To add a little more detail as some are questioning whether the problem is real: Cloudflare for one doesn’t send client IP information or the EDNS Client Subnet Header. Some people will be happy with the trade off between possible privacy benefits and any performance impact, others may not, either way it is worth being aware of the problem.

  2. Avatar Ryan says:

    As Andrew pointed out if is anycast then no effect.

    For CDN that doesn’t use anycast like Akamai using a DNS resolver that isn’t your isp and one that don’t forward subnet of user might cause you to get routed to a node outside your isp if they got a cache server for it in their network.

    In reality it not major anyway if I use Virgin Media dns resolver on Disney+ I get routed to server inside VM ping 17 ms but if use 1.1.1.1 I get routed outside VM network 20ms 3 ms more.

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