Will the internet survive the "record traffic peaks" it is currently experiencing?
If the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has you working from home, learning from home, or just practicing social distancing or self-isolation, then chances are that you are using the internet more.
But can the internet cope with the increased demand, especially as providers are removing caps during this time of uncertainty? What if the blinking lights on your router turn from that reassuring green to an angry blinking red?
Internet metrics firm Ookla, the company behind the Speedtest service, has been closely monitoring the performance and quality of global mobile and broadband internet networks. While it has seen performance degradation, especially in the hardest hit countries, such as China, Italy, Spain, and France, overall the networks are coping well.
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Cloudflare also examined the impact of COVID-19 on internet traffic in Seattle, Northern Italy and South Korea, and has seen substantial increases in traffic -- for example, 40 percent increases in Seattle, and 30 percent increases in Italy. Despite this, Cloudflare is bullish, saying that "none of these traffic changes raise any concern," going on to say that "we have not seen, and do not anticipate, any impact on our network's performance, reliability, or security globally."
And it's not just the coronavirus that's causing internet spikes. This week saw the release of "Call of Duty: Warzone" video game, with its huge 18 to 23 GB files. This caused large amounts of congestion on Tier-1 networks, but nothing toppled over.
There have been some outages, for example, this week the UK mobile network suffered a hiccup, but the issue was blamed on "interconnect issues" between the operators and not the rise in usage.
Video conferencing has also exploded this year. Zoom has seen a massive increase in the number of meetings. Despite this, the service has displayed high levels of reliability.
Bottom line, the internet seems to be quite robust. According to the Internet Society, " core Internet infrastructure providers should be able to easily absorb the increase in traffic and demand."
If you rely on your home network, then it may be worth considering a backup. Your smartphone can double as a mobile hotspot, which works well, or you can buy a dedicated mobile hotspot device (I've been using the Netgear Nighthawk M1 and M2 hotspots, and both have been flawless workhorses).
Having a backup not only allows continuity, but it also means less frustration, which given the current state of the world, it might not be a bad thing.