UK internet providers insist they can take the 'work from home' strain

Tom McArthur
Page editor
The logos of the streaming services Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, amazon music and youtube can be seen on a television on February 21, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Internet traffic UK has increased dramatically as more and more people work from home or self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, internet service providers have said.

Since Tuesday, daytime traffic has increased 35%-60% compared with similar days on the BT (BT-A.L) network - but the company 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 video game updates and football streaming in the past, according to the telecoms giant.

The company is also removing caps on home broadband plans so that all  customers have unlimited data throughout the crisis. 

Read more: Supermarkets create thousands of jobs to cope with demand

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."

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

Virgin Media say they also saw a similar jump in broadband use, with traffic surging by up to 50% during daytime hours, but still well below peak evening levels.

Read more: How to avoid distractions and stay productive when WFH

Meanwhile, Virgin Media has noticed more 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.

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