UK markets open in 56 minutes

Openreach sees 20% surge in daytime network usage before lockdown

By Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter

Openreach has said usage of its network has surged by about 20% as a growing number of people turn to the internet for work and entertainment during the coronavirus outbreak.

The latest data relates to Monday daytime, before the UK was ordered into lockdown, compared with the same period last week.

BT-owned Openreach – which maintains the telephone cables and cabinets across the country used by most broadband providers – said that, despite the jump, usage is still lower than the usual peaks it experiences in the evening.

“We’re not seeing any significant issues across our broadband or phone network,” an Openreach spokesman said.

“We’ve seen a circa 20% increase in daytime usage over our fibre network, but that’s in line with what we expected and not as high as the usage levels we see during evening peak times.”

Meanwhile, Virgin Media has reported similar rise in demand, but said its network is “built to withstand this daily evening peak, and right now is comfortably accommodating this daytime increase”.

Upload data spiked on Mother’s Day as families held video calls with loved ones, the firm added.

A number of streaming platforms have reduced video quality to ease the pressure on internet services (Nick Ansell/PA)

“Despite increased data use on our network, we’re not at capacity and are continuing to provide our customers with the ultrafast and reliable services they expect,” said Jeanie York, Virgin Media’s chief technology and information officer.

“The coronavirus pandemic has still not pushed up demand to the levels seen during recent computer game releases or when multiple premier league games were streamed simultaneously.

“While we don’t know exactly what lies ahead, it’s clear that our network is performing a more critical role and we’re committed to playing our part in keeping the country connected.”

Streaming platforms including Netflix, Disney+ and YouTube have already reduced the quality of videos in a bid to ease the strain on internet service providers.

Video gaming experts have urged gamers to play at “reasonable times” to further ease pressure.

Last week, BT’s chief technology and information officer, Howard Watson, said the UK’s communications infrastructure is “well within its capacity limits” and “has significant headroom for growth in demand”.