Coronavirus Outbreak is Changing Internet Usage Pattern Worldwide and how it is Easing our Lives

Sanjeev Dulal 26 Apr, 2020

Most of the people are staying home to self-isolate as the government's efforts to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus, the change of internet consumption and the traffic pattern in a significant way is seen worldwide. With the imposing of mandatory lockdown, everything is online now. The spread of COVID-19 has changed society, and many schools and college classes have started virtually, and the dependency on the Internet is seen in other activities as well.  

Growth of Internet Traffic and reliance on services that allow us to work and learn from home

Internet traffic has increased significantly by around a quarter between January and late April throughout the world. According to WorldLink Communications, a company that provides internet connectivity service around the country, the growth of internet traffic is unprecedented and has skyrocketed in Nepal. The physical communication between friends, family and colleagues has replaced by the video calls, and more people are now using video-conferencing software like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, to name a few. 

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Reliance on the Internet for connectivity and home entertainment 

Home entertainment is also booming in recent days. The use of online gaming platforms is also skyrocketing. The popular PC game store, Steam released a report saying that there were more than 24 million players logged on the platform at the same time, a 25% jump since February. With the restriction on free outgoing and gathering, Netflix and YouTube have become a significant source of entertainment.  The users of these services were vastly increasing on smartphones, but now with computers close at hand, people appear to be using the services more in networks.

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Facebook, Netflix and YouTube have all seen user numbers on their phone apps fall off as their websites have grown, the data from SimilarWeb indicates. SimilarWeb extract their traffic numbers from several self-supporting sources to create data that can be compared across the Internet.

The growth of cases increased readership for local and established newspapers.

With the growth of coronavirus, the uncertainty about how bad the outbreak could get is increased. There are not almost 30 lakhs cases worldwide with more than 2lakhs deaths. With the evidence of fatality growing day by day, people appear to be browsing new sites. Heavy traffic is seen in more established media websites for the information on the COVID-19. Onlinekhabar, Setopati, The Himalayan Times has seen the readership skyrocketed. The growth of viewership of web designing company Ennovative Web has almost increased by 30-40% over the last three months, according to Alexa report. 

Has the Internet got weaker during this outbreak?

If you are thinking of how the Internet is coping with the burst of the traffic in its relatively shorter history? You might be experiencing localized performance issues depending on wherever you live as the internet service provider (ISPs) that provides most connectivity of households in Nepal as well as in the world were not designed to handle this growth of traffic that they are experiencing right now. These localized have particular strain such as loading time of websites has increased, video calls that are very unclear and some. Despite this localized hiccup, how about the internet capability and dependency on it? The Internet is doing pretty subtle, and the COVID-19 pandemic is driving the most significant expansion in years. 

Web-traffic has seen growth in almost every hour of the day, but now the peak hours seems to be changing. Different colleges, institutions are conducting classes in mornings, and a lot of virtual meetings takes place in late mornings. Internet usage in Italy has increased by around 40%. Still, change is not so significant in South Korea where people ware already heavy internet users throughout the day. According to Cloudflare, a US company that provides the network infrastructure to businesses around the world. 

Scalability of Internet giants 

The biggest companies on the web are more careful than we are. They scale up their operations very quickly. They add additional servers immediately when the demand spikes and many big companies use dedicated cloud platform like Amazon Web Services(AWS), and this is almost failproof. In recent days, many big companies are running their own data centres, adding new feasibility to meet user demand.  

The interesting fact is that, in a developed country, streaming and gaming services like Twitch, Netflix and others have started creating purpose-built delivery networks that bypass large sections of the public Internet. Traffic flows from their own data centres through their cables to last-mile broadband providers. The internet giants are upgrading its traffic capacity from smaller bandwidths to the bigger ones.

Role of ISPs and Telecommunication Companies

In different parts of the word, ISPs has waived the data caps, which increases the freedom of internet browsing. The places where cable internet is inaccessible, the Internet is on the data plans, and government bring regulations to allow network operators to roll out cheap or even free data plans. For example, Nepal Telcom and Ncell are brining great plans for the customers during this period, and this is a great job.

Physical up-gradation seems relatively harder during this time as crucial parts of the Internet still require a human touch. If the essential hardware breaks down, this could be where we start to see problems.  That could be bad for people in more impoverished regions who now find themselves cut off more than most. To sum up, the Internet is emerging more reliable than ever. No other utility services—not electricity, not water, not transportation—could handle such an increase in usage.

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