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A Snapshot of Openreach’s UK Network Traffic – Past 13 Months UPDATE

Monday, December 27th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 7,392
Network cable connected to wifi router on white background.

Openreach (BT) has kindly provided ISPreview.co.uk with some new network traffic data, which shows the average monthly UK data consumption of broadband users across their network for the past 13-months – from September 2020 to October 2021. Interestingly, traffic actually declined through the spring and summer.

The network access provider typically supplies numerous broadband ISPs (e.g. TalkTalk, BT, Sky Broadband and hundreds more) across the country and as such their platform often sees the impact of major events, such as big software updates, online game releases or live video streaming.

In a normal year we’d perhaps also expect to see a steady upward curve propagating through the months, which is because the demand for data is constantly rising and so new peaks of usage are being set all the time. Indeed, this trend was turbocharged during much of 2020, and into early 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a lot of people to work and play from home.

However, the data for 2021 reveals what happened after the Government began lifting the last of the major COVID-19 lockdowns during the spring and into the summer. Instead of the usual upward curve, Openreach sees a fall as people returned to the office (i.e. less of a need for video calls / conferencing etc.), schools and begin going on holidays again.

NOTE: 1 PetaByte is equal to 1,000 TeraBytes (TB) or 1,000,000 GigaBytes (GB).

Openreach UK Network Traffic
(the horizontal axis below reflects the trend across hours, months and years)
Openreach-UK-Network-Traffic-Sep-2020-to-Oct-2021

Openreach were also kind enough to provide a figure for the average daily usage in PetaBytes, as measure across each of the aforementioned months.

Months Average daily usage in PB (PetaBytes)
Sep-20 147.3607451
Oct-20 156.4521149
Nov-20 159.0495583
Dec-20 170.7722132
Jan-21 190.6886357
Feb-21 195.5177799
Mar-21 180.283659
Apr-21 171.5023452
May-21 161.7191456
Jun-21 155.2737012
Jul-21 157.4461938
Aug-21 163.7920685
Sep-21 160.728818
Oct-21 169.9110007

A roughly similar trend is seen if we take a look across the same period using aggregated traffic data from the London Internet Exchange (LINX), which handles a key chunk of UK and global data traffic through their switches via nearly a thousand members (broadband ISPs, mobile operators etc.). We do see some evidence of this trend in prior years too, but the upward curve of usage is notably flatter during 2021 than before.

LINX Aggregate Network Traffic

LINX-Network-Traffic-Sep-2020-to-Oct-2021
We should point out that LINX does not even remotely provide a complete overview of the internet traffic flow from all ISPs (e.g. BT alone sees traffic peaks of around 20Tbps vs 5-6Tbps+ for LINX), but they do offer another useful indication of how much extra traffic is flowing around.

UPDATE 30th Dec 2021

Openreach has just released some more network statistics for the past year, which we’ll paste below.

Key findings for 2021 broadband use across the Openreach network:

  • The busiest day was Sunday 5 December 2021 when a record 222PB (PetaBytes) was consumed across Openreach’s network.
  • The 2nd and 3rd busiest days in 2021 were Tuesday 28th December (219PB) and Monday 27th December (214PB).
  • The average property connected to the Openreach network used around 3,666GB of data in 2021, or around 10GB per day.
  • The busiest months in 2021 were December (5800PB+), January (5,911PB) and March (5,588PB).
  • During the Christmas and New Year period:
    • Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th December days were the busiest days with a total of 433PB being consumed.
    • Video calls as well as TV streaming (Netflix, Prime etc. and live sport) and gaming console downloads were thought to be the contributing factors.
    • This year, network usage on Christmas day was nearly double that of last year:
      • Christmas day 2019 = 96PB
      • Christmas day 2020 =181PB
      • Christmas day 2021 =189PB
  • Online gaming continues to have a significant impact on the UK’s broadband consumption, although not as pronounced as during 2020. However, many of the smaller data spikes are still focused around updates to popular PlayStation, PC and Xbox games – including Call of Duty.
  • The busiest day on the Openreach network tends to be a Saturday or a Sunday.
  • The busiest time of day on the network tends to be between 9pm and 10pm.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
28 Responses
  1. Smith2Trappy says:

    When will Openreach have symmetric up/down though

    1. Jordan says:

      Probably not for awhile, i just got talktalk fttp op, 1gb download – 100upload

    2. Steve says:

      Once it becomes an absolute necessity for your average punter.

    3. GNewton says:

      Most non-Openreach fibre network providers offer symmetric speeds for fibre lines.

      BT/Openreach continue to make wrong strategic decisions, like not doing symmetric FTTP (other than costly leased lines) nowadays, or its widespread fibre rollouts being more than a decade too late.

      These are just some of the reasons why its share price has tumbled over the past few years.

    4. Jonny says:

      Why would aiming to push users who decide they need a symmetric service onto higher revenue and high margin ethernet products lead to shareholders being unhappy? How much overbuild is there between Openreach and a symmetric FTTP provider, and in these areas which network are consumers ending up on as a result of their ISP choice?

    5. John says:

      “Most non-Openreach fibre network providers offer symmetric speeds for fibre lines.”

      Most fibre networks in the UK are asymmetric.

    6. anonymous says:

      When their customers demand it basically.

    7. GNewton says:

      @Jonny: BT shares have been in decline for a number of years now due a number of wrong business decisions, mainly due to a severe lack of longterm future-proof investments in e.g. fibre in the past (not so much now, but it’s many years too late in the game). There were of course other factors, e.g. its high pension burdens etc. And the danger of loosing a large number of customers, and therefore revenues, is a real one.

      For example, in our local county, many alternative fibre providers simply offer better deals, e.g. symmetric speeds, at lower prices, often in areas where there isn’t even Openreach fibre at all for the next few years. On the other hand, according to Thinkbroadband, there are already around 3% of premises with overlapping fibre from different fibre networks, this figure is going up rapidly. Home-office working is to stay for many who used to commute to offices in pre-pandemic times, increasing the need for more reliable fibre networks.

    8. anonymous says:

      I welcome your thoughts on why Vodafone, another telecomms company in the FTSE 100, have shed 45% of their value in the past 5 years.

      Or why Liberty Global lost over half their value in a little over 3 years before recovering some.

      Regarding losing customers the share price of companies is based on earnings, not revenue. Valuation is done based on revenue, current or forward, for startups. Shareholders are quite aware Openreach will lose market share whatever they do.

      BT are regulated. This regulation will be relaxed as competition increases. As competition increases BT will also be forced to change their product portfolio. Previous management were guilty of an incumbent monopoly mindset, current aren’t.

      This is normal for businesses. This is how capitalism works and is indeed how most formally state-owned entities have worked. Chugging along doing the same old until suddenly they realise they can’t. I am unsure why it merits enormously repetitive comments.

      The idea that upload speeds are somehow a massive issue in anything other than a tiny minority of people’s purchases is absurd.

      The idea that Openreach should be dropping everything in their build plans to compete with altnets passing a few tens of thousands of premises is absurd.

      The idea that Openreach should drop their pricing, which they can’t anyway, to compete with altnets running on insanely tight margins and burning cash like beasts is absurd.

      Work from home peaked in early 2021 with the Alpha wave. Desirable as higher upload speeds are 99% of the time people working from home aren’t touching the sides of 20 Mbit up let alone 100.

      The Openreach numbers for ratio of usage between upload and download speak for themselves, and are more asymmetrical than the tiers of service. Prolonged usage does not dramatically increase with higher bandwidth.

      Besides big jumps between normal and superfast, superfast to ultrafast where people have new applications open to them people do the same things faster.

      Source: cable companies that are able to upgrade customers free of charge. Move people on 200/20 to 500/35 and they may speed test then go back to what they were doing before.

      Still waiting on killer apps. Folks on here have been talking about cloud applications as a huge one for a long time but it just hasn’t materialised as commercial pressure.

      Openreach will keep upload as low as they can for as long as they can. It is not costing them money to operate any other way at this time.

      Quite the opposite, actually. New build estates with 30-32 premises on a PON can definitely be placed under duress if gigabit symmetrical is available.

      Source: Verizon and AT&T in the USA, Bell Canada.

  2. garbagebtinternet says:

    open beech. Big scammer that’s what they are.

    1. George B says:

      Sad that garbage….hasn’t got anything more interesting to do at 3.30am

    2. Fastman says:

      trying to be funny – failing dismally

    3. anonymous says:

      Hi Phil.

    4. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      “Most non-Openreach fibre network providers offer symmetric speeds for fibre lines.
      BT/Openreach continue to make wrong strategic decisions, like not doing symmetric FTTP (other than costly leased lines)”

      Clearly most residential users don’t need symmetric FTTP. The only customers who need a symmetric service are business users, and a true business would probably require a superior SLA compared to a standard residential user. I’ve just run a speed test, and my download speed is averaging around 33mb/s, with an upload speed of around 4mb/s; I’m on FTTC, and had BBC news running on IPLAYER while I run the test. I have no issues watching films on Netflix, while my wife watches programs on catchup. As far as upload speed, we generally use WhatsApp to video call our friends and family, again without issue, as well as transfering files and sending attachments on emails.
      Why do I need a fast Symmetric service, when the service I currently use works perfectly well?

    5. anonymous says:

      Need and want are very different things of course. It’d be good to have the option even if as a premium product but we are where we are.

    6. SecretSquirrel says:

      @Ex Telecom Engineer
      I also wonder why this is a requirement in the domestic environment. The only reason I can see is a desire to transfer the initial backup of a differential backup scheme (TimeMachine for example) to a remote site, perhaps patience is a better option.
      I look forward to some domestics enlightening me.

    7. anonymous says:

      I have the Internet at home which I guess makes me a ‘domestic’ whatever one of those is.

      Ignoring all other factors patience is never a better option than superior connectivity in any scenario.

      While not essential symmetric remains desirable and I don’t get what the disagreement is there. We are where we are but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

      Speaking there purely as a ‘domestic’, rather than from the point of view of the day job, which is to a large extent ensuring staff in businesses require less patience and, hence, are more productive.

    8. GNewton says:

      The user profiles of some simple domestic users are different to those of professional office workers, content creators, and increasingly home offices, or those in the software industry. And it is evident that BT Openreach does not cater for this market segment. For BT it’s either domestic users, or big business leased line users. There is an increasing gap between these two, and it’s not been sufficiently addressed by BT/Openreach. An asymmetric fibre might have been an awesome product a decade ago, but times have changed a lot since then.

      There is reason why quite a number of alternative fibre networks are offering symmetric services. For many, even a simple 50/50 line is far more useful than a 80/20. There is more to a fibre network than just streaming from Netflix or iPlayer.

    9. A_Builder says:

      @Ex Telecom Engineer
      “I also wonder why this is a requirement in the domestic environment. The only reason I can see is a desire to transfer the initial backup of a differential backup scheme (TimeMachine for example) to a remote site, perhaps patience is a better option.
      I look forward to some domestics enlightening me.”

      Initial backups of a new device are a very good usage case for symmetric or even burst symmetric.

      Fact remains the world is going cloudy.

      Cloudy means a lot of up loading – nearly as much as downloading.

      There is a lot of 4k video going upstream off people phones etc.

      That said I would rather OR focus on getting the fibre in the ground and on poles than obsess about 1G/1G as the fibre itself is fine for the foreseeable. Upgrading the PON’s and the Headends is perfectly possible in a managed way and will happen where there is completion and demand.

      If OR have braincells then there will be a way of figuring out when the commercials makes sense for symmetric already in place.

      There will be a tipping point where the price of XGS drops low enough that the cost of the future upgrade can be taken into account and XGS will become the standard.

  3. wireless pacman says:

    I wonder how many customers this represents?

  4. anon67884 says:

    Must be a slow news day…

  5. anon67884 says:

    The pandemic led to a large increase in downloading teh Pr0n, Weaboo and Furry games on Steam in 2021, overloading many ISPs. No one understood it, and many felt were powerless to prevent it.

    1. Ian Pearson says:

      Still absolutely useless so brag Away you are bragging for no reason please send to CEO and Duncan Baker MP

    2. anon67884 says:

      Ian, as was said to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, “Is everything OK?”.

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-59382105

      Peppa Pig anyone?

    3. John says:

      Folk should be able to do whatever they want with a connection they pay for, it doesn’t have to be in agreement with your usage of the internet. Nobody should judge anybody else about their habits of internet usage whatever it may be.

      The issue should be, those greedy ISP charging folk for a line they never saturate properly during the work hours since they’re out, and when they get to finally using it, they’re screwed over during peak time, so unfair.

  6. Kermit says:

    I was wondering why the huge variation across each month, until I realised it was the daily usage during each month over the two year period.
    The peaks are the evening streaming I guess.

  7. Matt says:

    I’m confused it says on an ad that fttp is been done In Hertfordshire but still can get it what’s up with that

    1. anonymous says:

      ‘Is been done’?

      They mean some of the county has been done, not all of it.

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