As the coronavirus spreads, public and private companies as well as government entities are requiring employees to work from home, putting unforeseen strain on all manner of networking technologies and causing bandwidth and security concerns. What follows is a round-up of news and traffic updates that Network World will update as needed to help keep up with the ever-changing situation. Check back frequently!
According to the April 22 Verizon Network Report, overall data volume across its networks has increased 19% compared to pre-COVID levels. While data usage remains elevated, the changes in how people are using the network has stabilized, the company stated.
In the United States, there has been a notable decline in people’s movements during the course of the global pandemic. Mobile handoffs the times when a data session moves from one cell site to another as users walk or drive around – have reduced by 27% nationally compared to typicalpre-COVID levels. And, measured by mobile handoffs, the U.S. has seen a decrease in movements since March 1. Verizon said that the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions appear to have the most people in the nation staying at home. Verizon stated it expects usage to continue at sustained higher levels, even as movements begin to shift in the coming weeks and months as stay-in-place restrictions begin to lift . “We believe all trends point to sustained network usage at this higher level for the foreseeable future,” said Kyle Malady, Chief Technology Officer for Verizon.
In its fifth report tracking internet speeds across the top 200 most populous U.S. cities, Broadbandnow reported networks were slowly adjusting to the new demand placed on them. But as of April 22 despite these adjustments, internet speeds in some cases slowed to a crawl. Over the past week, 67 cities (33.5% of the top 200) experienced median upload speed decreases of 20% or greater below range of previous weeks in 2020. Through April 15, the number was 61, or 30.5%. In turn, 51 cities (25.5%) have recorded download speed dips of 20% or greater, compared to last week’s 52.
The number of cities experiencing stable upload speeds (either in range of previous weeks or below by less than 10%) has decreased to 133, or 66.5% of the top 200. This is down from the previous report, where the number of cities was 139, or 69.5%. Compared to the April 15 report , more cities are seeing upload and download speed dips of greater than 20% out of range, and several major metro areas continue to struggle. Struggling cities like Evansville, IN, and Saint Paul, MN, are still recording decreases of 40% or greater, though they are the only two to see such significant dips for the second week in a row. That said, cities such as Washington D.C., Erie, PA, Littleton, CO, Rochester, NY, San Jose, CA and Scottsdale, AZ, are all experiencing median speeds that fall 30% of more out of range from previous weeks, the company stated.
According to a blog post by John Graham-Cumming Chief Technology Officer at Cloudflare, Portugal has seen the highest growth in Internet use running at about a 50% increase with Spain close behind and followed by the UK. Italy flattened out at about a 40% increase in usage towards the end of March and France seems to be plateauing at a little over 30% up on the end of last year. The US, Canada, Australia and Brazil are all running at between 40% and 50% the level of Internet use at the beginning of the year. “The Internet has seen incredible, sudden growth in traffic but continues to operate well. What Cloudflare sees reflects what we’ve heard anecdotally: some end-user networks are feeling the strain of the sudden change of load but are working and helping us all cope with the societal effects of COVID-19,” wrote Graham-Cumming. “It’s hard to imagine another utility (say electricity, water or gas) coping with a sudden and continuous increase in demand of 50%.”
U.S. Cellular, using authority granted by the Federal Communications Commission, started boosting its mobile broadband capacity in parts of six states to meet increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The six states are Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine and North Carolina, and FCC approved use of extra spectrum for 60 days.
The bandwidth in the AWS-3 band that was allotted is licensed to another entity, Advantage Spectrum. Ericsson has worked with U.S. Cellular to add additional capacity to more than 200 sites to help ensure connectivity for U.S. Cellular customers.
Other service providers reported that thanks to extra capacity designed into the internet backbone and other major networks, they have survived the impact COVID-19 has had on overall traffic.
“There was some anxiety as traffic began to ramp up at the start – we’ve seen a 35% increase in internet traffic – but ultimately the networks have handled it quite well,” said Andrew Dugan, chief technology officer at CenturyLink during a conference call.
It helped that the increased traffic generated by employees newly working from homes hits the networks during the day, not evenings, which is peak time for internet usage.
Enterprises and large network operators plan for capacity months ahead of when they need it so there was headroom there, Dugan said. People who build large IP networks are proactive and engineer the network for unexpected congestion. “We had some infrastructure segments that ran hot, but we are fiber-based so we quickly were able to add capacity, and we continue to address those situations – but a byproduct of that is more capacity as well,” he said.
During AT&T’s Q1 call with analysts this week, CEO Randall Stephenson took note of heavy volumes of traffic its network has been handling. “What we are seeing is the volumes of network usage moving out of urban and into suburban areas… and we are seeing heavy, heavy volume on the networks out of homes,” Stephenson said. That traffic is being generated by work-from-home employees, students doing online classwork and commerce, he said, and “it’s impressive to see how much activity is still going on by virtue of the connectivity that’s been facilitated into the homes.”
He said network providers take a lot of satisfaction in how well the networks are standing up given that volume of traffic has increased at the same time its source has shifted.
HighSpeedInternet.com took a look at how the speed of internet service across the country is fairing and found that nationwide the average is 59.5 Mbps.
The company also looked at data from three million speed-test results and calculated the average internet speed for every city in the US, then ranked them from fastest to slowest.
Some of the findings:
AT&T reported that Email traffic is down 25% as more people opt for phone and video calls. Video conferencing is on the rise with more than 470k Webex Meeting Calls on April 9, the highest during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also stated instant messaging, including text traffic from messaging apps and platforms, has slightly declined since the week prior, but overall is up nearly 60%.
For the second straight week, Verizon reported that data usage is basically flat or down slightly week-over-week — including gaming, streaming video, virtual private network (VPN) connections, web browsing and social media — indicating people have settled into their new routines.
Internet performance across the top 200 cities continued to improve through April 15, according to BroadbandNow. The company reported 91 (45.5%) cities have seen download speed decreases, down from 97 (48.5%) last week. 135 cities (67.5%) have experienced upload speed decreases, which is once again down from last week’s total of 139 (69%). Only two cities have experienced significant download speed decreases of greater than 40% out of range this week: Evansville, Indiana and Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Ookla reported that as of April 15 the U.S. has seen a very slight increase in mean download speed over mobile and fixed broadband when comparing the week of April 6 to the week prior. Specifically mean download speed over fixed broadband increased very slightly in King County, Washington during the week of April 6 while mobile download speed was relatively flat when compared with the week before. San Francisco County, California saw an increase in mean download speed over fixed broadband during the week of April 6, while mobile download speed remained flat. Westchester County, New York saw a decrease in mean download speed over fixed broadband when comparing the week of April 6 to the week before. Mobile download speed increased during the same period.
Verizon Wireless cell-network data indicates how well its customers in the U.S. are staying put during the coronavirus pandemic, with some regions of the country doing far better than others.
The carrier sees a general decline in the number of cell-site handoffs that take place when data sessions move from one tower to another as people move around.
According to the latest Verizon Network Report, handoffs have decreased by 35% nationally compared to a typical day before stay-at-home mandates and down 6% from what was reported last week.
Verizon said its New York metro and upstate markets showed the biggest declines at 51% and 61% respectively. Handoff declines for other Verizon markets:
AT&T reports that its core network traffic — which includes our business, home broadband and wireless usage — was up 24% through April 7 compared to a similar day in February. Wireless voice minutes of use were up 23% compared to an average Tuesday (April 7) and consumer home voice calling minutes of use were up 33% from an average Tuesday. Wi-Fi calling minutes of use were up 80% from an average Tuesday, AT&T stated.
BroadbandNow reports that Internet performance in the U.S. is improving, with 97 cities (48.5%) recording download-speed degradations this week (down from 117, or 59% last week – through April 8). In addition 139 cities (69%) have reported upload speed disruptions, which is also down from last week’s 144, or 72%, according to BroadbandNow monitoring. Three cities are experiencing upload speed drops of greater than 40%, including Baltimore, Maryland, Los Angeles, California, and Flushing, New York. And four cities are still experiencing significant download speed drops: Lawrenceville, Georgia, Rochester, New York, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and new addition Evansville, Ind.
ICANN.Org said it has joined the COVID-19 Cyber Threat Coalition (CTC), a group with the mission to stop cybercriminals from attacking institutions and individuals by playing on fears about the coronavirus pandemic. The group includes domain name service (DNS) registries, registrars, security experts, law enforcement, and Internet engineers.
The CTC said its goal is to, “operate the largest professional-quality threat lab in the history of cybersecurity out of donated cloud infrastructure and with rapidly assembled teams of diverse, cross-geography, cross-industry threat researchers.”
The group talked about the impact of COVID-19-related attacks and stated that credential phishing (33%) and scams (30%) are the most common tactics respondents reported, but malicious documents (18%) are also a popular attack vector.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) – part of the Department of Homeland Security – warned of COVID-19 network-security issues with the most common including:
CISA on April 8 released new guidance on how remote government workers and potentially others should address network security. The “interim Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 3.0 guidance to aid agencies in securing their network and cloud environments.” CISA wrote: “While this prior work has been invaluable in securing federal networks and information, the program must adapt to modern architectures and frameworks for government IT resource utilization. Accordingly, OMB’s [Office of Management and Budget] memorandum provides an enhanced approach for implementing the TIC initiative that provides agencies with increased flexibility to use modern security capabilities.”
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