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Internet providers insist they can take strain as traffic jumps during outbreak

Daytime traffic is up, and people are spending more time on the phone, making calls to loved ones.

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Internet service providers have experienced a jump in network usage during the daytime as people spend more time at home during the coronavirus outbreak (Rui Vieira/PA)

Internet service providers have experienced a jump in network usage during the daytime as people spend more time at home during the coronavirus outbreak (Rui Vieira/PA)

Internet service providers have experienced a jump in network usage during the daytime as people spend more time at home during the coronavirus outbreak (Rui Vieira/PA)

Internet service providers have revealed that traffic on their networks has increased as more people work from home or self-isolate during the coronavirus outbreak.

BT said that, since Tuesday, daytime traffic has increased 35%-60% compared with similar days – but insisted it is able to withstand the added strain.

The peak reached 7.5 terabits per second, only around half the average evening peak.

This is still below the highest ever peak – 17.5 terabits per second – which it has seen as a result of videogame updates and football streaming in the past, the telecoms giant said.

The UK’s communications infrastructure is well within its capacity limits, and has significant headroom for growth in demandHoward Watson, BT

Virgin Media reported a similar jump in broadband usage, with traffic up by as much as 50% during daytime hours, but also below regular peak evening levels.

Despite being confident that its broadband network is within manageable limits, BT said it is not complacent.

“The Covid-19 outbreak is causing changes to the way our networks are being used,” said Howard Watson, chief technology and information officer at BT.

“We’re monitoring those changes carefully to make sure we can respond rapidly if needed.

“However the UK’s communications infrastructure is well within its capacity limits, and has significant headroom for growth in demand.”

Virgin Media
Virgin Media said it has seen an increase in people making landline calls (Nick Ansell/PA)

Mobile data traffic has fallen by 5%, BT said, as more people connect their smartphones to Wi-Fi.

Data usage is peaking at around 5pm, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a daily briefing on the situation.

Meanwhile, Virgin Media has noticed a large growth in demand on its landline network, with voice calls up 80% week on week during its busiest period in the morning.

A 10am peak sees just under three million calls per hour, and people are spending nearly twice as much time on their landline phones in the early evening, with phone call minutes up by as much as 94%.

Despite assurances, both Netflix and YouTube have decided to limit video-stream quality in an effort to ease pressure on internet providers during the coronavirus outbreak.

PA