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Comcast's 2021 Network Report shows traffic patterns returning to pre-pandemic trends

The broadband provider found that while all traffic grew, the ongoing return to normalcy could impact the way people use the internet and consume streaming content.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer

Comcast's annual Network Report for 2021 showed traffic across its network once again reaching new heights, but also detected shifts in the tasks that traffic was put to as more and more individuals return to their pre-pandemic routines. 

Among these notable changes are the fact that Comcast once again detected the downstream traffic on its networks is increasing at a faster rate than upstream traffic, with an 11% rise in downstream occurring during 2021, compared to only a 5% increase in upstream traffic. This could point at fewer students and employees working from home, using upstream-heavy apps like video chat solutions and making fewer cloud storage uploads. 

In a similar vein, Comcast also recorded peak usage times once again shifting towards the evening for home users. This suggests more individuals are once again spending their days outside the home, accessing the internet via school or work networks. However, when those same users returned home, they still drove a 38% increase in peak downstream usage rates, suggesting we've still got plenty of connected leisure-time tasks planned for the end of our work and school days. 

Those entertainment use cases drove 10% to 20% increases across gaming, streaming media, and web browsing use during the year, Comcast said. Streaming video, however, dominated peak downstream traffic, accounting for 71% of all network throughput recorded during high-demand evening hours. Meanwhile, video conferencing accounted for just 5% of peak usage, once again denoting the shift in-home internet usage priorities. 

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All of this consumption is still happening primarily on smartphones, with Comcast noting that the mobile devices accounted for more than one-third of the 1 billion unique devices that connected to its network during 2021. 

Comcast reiterated in its report that its currently undertaking multiple measures to increase its network capacity to meet this expanding demand. These include its recent introduction of a new, DOCSIS 4.0-capable gateway that relies on 10G network technology to provide up to 4Gbps of connectivity now, with room to go even faster in the future. 

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The company plans to continue accelerating its integration of 10G technology throughout 2022, promising to "expand [its] network to serve more people in more places, and deploy new technology innovations that deliver more speed, security and reliability to [its] customers." 

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