Report: Median broadband usage to top 250 GB per month for the first time in 2020

Driven by faster speeds, the median monthly usage by broadband customers in 2020 is on pace to surpass 250 gigabytes (GB) for the first time.

According to the fourth quarter 2019 OpenVault Broadband Industry (OVBI) report, which was issued on Tuesday, the median usage of 250 GB would mark a 25% increase over 2019's median usage of 190.7 GB.

The increased broadband consumption has a direct correlation with faster speeds, according to OpenVault's 10 years of analysis. The report said that a 24.4% increase in average provisioned speed, from 103.1 Mbps to 128.3 Mbps, in 2019 was slightly outpaced by a 27.3% increase in average consumption, from 270.2 GB to 344 GB. 

Using similar historical factors for high volume subscribers, OpenVault expects that by the end of 2020 “power usage” of more than 1 TB per month will account for at least 12% of all subscribers, a 60% increase from the end of 2019, and that “extreme power usage” of more than 2 TB will reach 1.4% of subscribers, an 80% increase from over the same time frame.

The report said that these trends were "critically important planning metrics for operators to consider,” especially those using slower DSL, early versions of DOCSIS, or wireless-based platforms. “As these operators upgrade their networks, they can use predictive modeling to better plan for the impact on their network." OpenVault has found that network operators who transition to FTTP or DOCSIS 3.1 see a doubling or more of bandwidth consumption as a result, according to the report.

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OpenVault provides cable operators with a set of command lines to put on their cable modem termination systems (CMTS) to collect Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR) data that is then pushed back to OpenVault. OpenVault can collect the data, which includes traffic counts, at the subscriber level, every 15 minutes to see how much bandwidth each cable broadband subscriber is using.

All of the analytics of the subscriber data can be used to either notify subscribers when they are approaching the threshold of their data usage if there are data caps in place, or provide information to the service provider for marketing purposes to upgrade a user to a higher tier of service. 

The OVBI report also cited a case study that showed a shift to usage-based billing from flat rate plans resulted in a near term ARPU (average revenue per user) of nearly 14%.

Overall, the Q4 2019 weighted average broadband usage in the United States was 344 GB, 27% more than the Q4 2018 average of 270.2 GB, while median usage rose 32% from 144.8 to 190.7 during the same period.

“Power usage” continued to rise in the fourth quarter, with more than 7.2% of subscribers consuming more than 1TB per month (up 80% from Q4 2018) and “extreme power users” of more than 2 TB per month rising 123% to almost 1% of all subscribers. In Europe, average monthly usage rose 24%, from 158.7 GB to 196.3 GB, and median usage grew 31%, from 93 GB to 122.4 GB.