Like a dark and unfamiliar road, the next phase of pandemic broadband use lies ahead. While we at OpenVault have become expert at helping our customers stay ahead of trends by roadmapping consumption patterns, we’re suddenly less certain about what awaits.

What danger lurks just around the corner when more schools and universities shift from on-site to remote classes? How steep will the uphill journey be to get a newly remote workforce to return to the office? And will broadband networks continue to have enough horsepower when the cold, damp days and long nights of winter force consumers indoors?

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal’s Lillian Rizzo and Sawyer Click dove deeply into the country’s internet habits throughout the pandemic journey. Using data from OpenVault and other sources, they mapped how usage waxed, then waned, as we made our way from the first lockdowns to the freedom of summer. So far, so good, but cautionary data is strung out like Burma Shave signs (look it up!) on the road ahead.

  • While overall consumption was down from Q1 peaks in Q2 2020, it is still up 36% year-over-year; moreover, usage in the less ample upstream continued to rise, registering an increase of 5.3% from Q1 to Q2. 
  • Mobile Marketer reports that the Zoom mobile app was downloaded more than 300 million times worldwide in Q2, making it the most installed app of the period and suggesting continued reliance on videoconferencing.
  • Brightcove notes that consumption of news and entertainment content was up 40% quarter over quarter in the first half of this year, indicating that viewers are continuing to migrate from traditional pay-TV to #broadbandfirst video consumption.

There’s one more piece of data stowed away in our Amazon Redshift warehouse [from our OpenVault Broadband Insights report] that merits discussion: The number of subscribers on 1 gigabit or faster plans is up 133% year-over-year, and 75% since the start of the year, and almost two-thirds of subscribers now have connections of 100 Mbps or faster. We’ve observed throughout our 10 years of helping our customers manage their networks and analyze their data that faster speeds translate to more consumption. You can do the math from there.

Ever since the start of the pandemic, most of us have lurched through our lives like out-of-town tourists with a faulty GPS. We believe that a rebound in broadband consumption levels is inevitable; what we can’t do is answer the questions of how much, how quickly or for how long. The best advice we have at the moment is the same counsel we offered our kids when they learned to drive: Pay attention to the signs and keep your eyes on the road ahead.