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Internet use up 78% since first lockdown, broadband figures show

Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent
·2-min read

Internet use in the UK rose by 78% in the first lockdown in March last year compared to the same month in 2019, new figures have shown.

Broadband firm Zen Internet said its latest research showed demand for streaming services, news content and online work tools skyrocketed on its network as millions spent more time at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the company’s figures, traffic to BBC sites more than tripled as people sought out the latest Covid-19 news while traffic to both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video more than doubled – compared to only a 28% rise in the year prior.

Another source of entertainment in lockdown, video games, has also caused notable traffic increases between March 2020 and March 2021, Zen said, with the launch of the latest Xbox console in October causing one such spike.

A teenager playing on an Xbox
The latest Xbox launched in October (Yui Mok/PA)

The biggest demand peak of 2020 came on December 16, the company said, when a large update to gaming series Call of Duty went live while live football was streaming on Amazon Prime.

Zen Internet recently also reported a further spike on March 11 this year, when internet traffic hit its highest point ever for the network – 18% above the previous peak in December.

“This time last year, as millions across the country were told to stay at home, demand for online connectivity simply sky-rocketed to unprecedented levels,” Zen Internet chairman and founder Richard Tang said.

“More than ever before people became dependent on the broadband that connects them with the outside world and reliable connectivity became an essential commodity.

“Even as initial lockdowns eased last year, we didn’t witness a dramatic drop-off in internet usage, as you may have expected.

“In fact, entertainment streaming services continue to drive record levels of traffic, but thanks to how we manage our network Zen was more than equipped to handle this, and more if it came to it.

“As we look towards brighter times post-pandemic, we expect this demand to remain, reinforcing the need for infrastructure investment and the continued rollout of full-fibre broadband. This will give the UK the connectivity it needs to support long-term economic prosperity.”