Comcast and Verizon see network usage settle-in during WFH

Since March 1, Comcast sees network peak usage starting to plateau in most of its markets. (Comcast)

The spike in network traffic is starting to flatten with subscribers settling into their work from home (WFH) routines. Comcast said on Thursday that its residential broadband traffic increases were starting to plateau in most of its markets, including in cities such as San Francisco and Seattle that were among the first to implement stay-at-home measures.

Also on Thursday, Verizon said that for the second straight week its data usage was basically flat or down slightly week-over-week—including gaming, streaming video, virtual private network (VPN) connections, web browsing and social media—indicating that its subscribers have settled into their new routines.

While Verizon didn't break out specific numbers in this week's update on its network performance during the COVID-19 crisis, Comcast highlighted several areas. Since March 1, Comcast, which operates the largest residential operator network in the U.S., saw a 32% spike in upstream traffic and an 18% increase in downstream traffic.

"We engineer the network for capacity to handle spikes and shifts in usage patterns, and while we are seeing an unprecedented shift in usage and traffic, it’s within our capacity," Comcast said in its update.

Like other service providers, Comcast has seen a shift in peak traffic usage times in many cities as millions of employees work from home and students shift to home-based online learning. As of April 15, downstream peaks are occurring around 7:30 p.m. versus 9 p.m. before March 1. Due to remote workforces, the upstream peak has shifted from 9 p.m. before March to 8 a.m.-6 p.m. as of April 15.

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Comcast has also seen a 228% increase in VoIP and video conferencing while gaming downloads have increased 77%. With millions of employees now working from home on their residential broadband connections, Comcast has seen virtual private network  (VPN) usage climb by 40%.

Comcast is micro-monitoring its network by running more than 700,000 speed tests most days, and it has thousands of engineers working to add capacity wherever its needed.