Understanding the impact of lockdown on residential Wi-Fi and future implications

Technology

Understanding the impact of lockdown on residential Wi-Fi and future implications

Technology

Introduction

Wi-Fi is an essential service – a fact that became clearer during COVID-19 lockdowns around the globe. As cities and nations shifted to remote working and learning, it created a “new normal” and further accelerated reliance on home Wi-Fi. We have recently published a research paper that examines the impact this new normal has had on Wi-Fi usage during lockdown and beyond, and the important implications for the future of Internet service providers.


The research presented relies heavily on real-world, anonymized usage data from Airties Cloud, which supports 25 million homes from leading Internet service providers around the world. It covers a period in 2020 that includes pre-lockdown (January to mid-February) to the widespread lockdown period (mid-Feb through April) to the recent post-lockdown period (May through June). The paper examines the changes in user behavior and the factors affecting Wi-Fi performance and its impact on homeowners’ quality of experience.

Key findings

  • During lockdown, the number of actively used Wi-Fi devices within each home increased from 5.9 to 6.6
  • During lockdown, not only were more devices in use, but they were being used simultaneously. An average of up to 5 simultaneously connected devices were being used every day of the week. This is a 30% to 40% increase on the pre-lockdown working day, where an average of only 3 devices per home with a peak of 4 in the evenings on weekdays and during the weekend was
  • Between the working hours of 9am and 5pm, Wi-Fi activity increased, ranging between 70% to 94% higher than pre-lockdown levels.
  • During lockdown, the volume of average Wi-Fi data rose to over 11GB per home, for every day of the week. This compares to pre-lockdown when data consumption was around 6.5GB during the week to over 8GB at the weekends. In other words, average data volumes increased by a massive 62%.
  • Propelled by an increase in video conferencing and online file-sharing/storage usage, the volume of upstream traffic more than doubled, with an increase of 116% during the lockdown period.
Stay-at-Home Impact on Wi-Fi Connections and QoE – Beyond the Lockdown Period

The Catalyst Effect

While all these examples of the increased demands on Wi-Fi are interesting, the most significant data relates to the homeowners’ measurable Wi-Fi quality of experience (QoE), and a phenomenon that we call the catalyst effect. The findings show that when under pressure, Wi-Fi performance does not worsen in a linear fashion correlated with the increase in usage, but rather that it deteriorates in an exponential way. On an aggregate level, users’ experience deteriorated by 160%, with peaks reaching 200%, relative to the increase in Wi-Fi usage and activity. This catalyst effect remains prevalent in the post-lock down period as well, as measured through mid-June. This deterioration in quality of experience can, in turn, lead to increased customer care calls and lower NPS scores.

Our priority is to support service providers as they focus on keeping their customers connected and productive during this unprecedented global challenge. The final section of the paper briefly discusses solutions that can help mitigate the catalyst effect and improve residential Wi-Fi QoE, and the entire whitepaper can be downloaded here.

Article by:

Bart Vercammen

Bart Vercammen,

EVP & GM Software Product Line


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