Congestion on the Belgian internet highway returns to pre-Covid growth pattern
We are communicating in much the same way as before the crisis: more text messages, less calling
Gaming is one of the largest network climbers since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic
Covid-19 continues to dominate our daily lives in 2021. But although we broke one internet network record after the other in 2020, things seem to have settled down somewhat this year. This is clear from an analysis of internet traffic in 2021 conducted by Telenet based on the behaviour of over 1.7 million fixed and 2.9 million mobile internet customers. We continue to surf, stream, and telework more and more, but without the massive increase experienced in 2021. The one exception to this is gaming. The downloading of games takes up a larger percentage of our internet highway each month. Telenet is able to cope with this increase well thanks to such network optimisations as switching off the analogue TV signal this year.
Mobile calling: back to pre-Covid in 2024?
Let’s flash back to 2019 for a moment, when the coronavirus didn’t yet dominate our lives. For several years, we had already been making fewer calls via the mobile line, while communication through social media like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger had steadily increased. That downward trend in calling behaviour changed abruptly in March 2020, when the coronavirus crisis hit our country. Call traffic on the Telenet and Base mobile network peaked and we actually made 10% more calls in 2020. The number of call minutes via the fixed line also increased by around 3%.
Even though the coronavirus continued throughout all of this year, we seem to have now returned to more stable call and internet traffic activity levels. The downward trend for calling is now once again observed. In 2021, we made 4% fewer calls with our mobile phones than in 2020, but 6% more than in 2019. Telenet expects that we will reach the same level in 2024 as before the coronavirus crisis. Fewer calls were also once again made with the fixed line in 2021, but these calls had a longer duration - twice as long as in 2019 on average.
Mobile data volume, on the other hand, continues to increase significantly. For several years now, we have been using around 30% more mobile data because we are using WhatsApp more often and sending more pictures and videos. That growth slowed down somewhat in 2020 and 2021 because we spent more time at home using Wi-Fi due to the need to limit our physical social interaction.
Isabelle Geeraerts, spokesperson for Telenet, explains, “After the trend change in 2020, we began using our smartphones as before. Calling returned to more text messages or calling via social media apps. This has resulted in mobile network growth that appears to be in line with expectations. 5G will be rolled out gradually in 2022. We expect that around 10% of traffic will run over 5G by the end of next year.”
An online life appears to be here to stay
Traffic on the fixed network internet highway also seems to have returned to its pre-Covid status. This traffic increased annually by around 20 to 30% prior to the pandemic. In 2020 and early 2021, we suddenly observed a doubling to 60% more traffic. From communicating and working to hobbies and shopping, lockdown forced all of us to do almost everything online. Over the course of 2021, growth stabilised, with an average increase of 20 to 30% - although this in addition to last year’s growth. So, we are simply continuing to live our lives online. It is clear that, for example, working from home is here to stay: in 2020, internet traffic categorised as teleworking grew by 65%, while Telenet observed an additional increase this year of 20% in the number of video meetings and shared files.
Gamers responsible for network traffic peak
Downstream internet traffic once again reached an all-time high on 7 December 2021, with 3.6 terabits per second: the equivalent of all internet users downloading 250,000 pictures per second. As always, this was due to a major game release. Call of Duty fans received the newest update all at once. In terms of gaming, Telenet has observed a new trend since 2020: monthly game downloads are taking up more and more space on the internet highway. Apart from teleworking and browsing (surfing, online shopping, etc.), this type of traffic has grown most significantly the last two years (+76%).
Isabelle Geeraerts, spokesperson for Telenet, adds, “Working from home with digital meetings is here to stay and we are also shopping more online than before the pandemic. But the most striking increase is in gaming. Gaming itself does not use much data, but downloading games and updates takes up considerable bandwidth. The Telenet network is able to cope with these peaks easily thanks to the extra capacity released by the shutdown of the analogue TV signal this year. This outdated technology monopolised considerable cable space by comparison. It’s as if we were to have a separate lane on the highway for horse-drawn carriages. We now utilise that space fully for all the increasingly popular digital applications.”