[Editorial] In Times of Change, Networks Play a Key Role

Joan Raventós, CEO of Zhilabs (Left), and Claudia Park, Vice President and Head of Marketing Group, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics

 

With many countries prompted to mandate lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, the concept of ‘business as usual’ has changed and we have adapted to a new norm. This has required employees to work from home and students to take classes online for their safety, transforming daily lives into something we have never experienced before. With consumers across all segments spending more time at home, a reliable network has become increasingly important, serving a critical function in assisting those working remotely, communicating with families and friends or obtaining health-related information online.

 

We will explore how network traffic patterns in some countries have changed since social distancing and stay-at-home orders were implemented, and how communication service providers (CSPs) can respond.

 

So, what changes did the lockdown bring to our communication networks?

 

 

Traffic Changes1

Samsung and Zhilabs, a Samsung subsidiary specializing in networks analytics, analyzed data traffic changes using CustomAIr, Zhilabs’ network management solution. The results identified several variations in network data traffic before and after the lockdown in some countries.

 

 

Our network sampling revealed that data traffic on both fixed broadband networks and mobile networks increased by 48% and 24% respectively since the lockdown.

 

Using Zhilabs CustomAIr solution, we also took a closer look into consumer app usage. The traffic of virtual business meeting apps increased by 218%, likely due to work-at-home policies at many companies. Also, with students, the traffic of online class apps rose by 437%. These figures are average numbers taken from the apps monitored. Based on our monitoring tool, certain apps even showed a sharp upsurge in data traffic up to 1,917%, which is an extreme amount of growth in this segment.

 

 

Shelter-in-place orders have also caused a significant impact on how we spend time daily. More people accessed online networks in order to stay connected with others and to socialize while staying home. This has led to a traffic increase of 38% in social networking apps and 60% in video call apps.

 

 

Moreover, restrictions on outdoor activities have resulted in increased demand for leisure activities that can be enjoyed in the comfort of the living room. The traffic for video streaming apps has increased by 32%, and some gaming apps have recorded an explosive growth of up to 2,065%.

 

 

Online supermarket apps for grocery purchases and other necessities have experienced a 35% traffic increase, while healthcare apps that allow users to make doctor’s appointments and to get various medical and pharmaceutical information have also experienced a growth of 234%.

 

 

Since the onset of ‘the new normal’, we have been faced with an entirely different network consumption pattern. A large increase in network demand has led to a rise in traffic while users still expect the same network quality as before.

 

 

Samsung’s Recommendations for Service Providers

At a time when connectivity has become a lifeline for many, maintaining a reliable network is crucial. As shown in the analysis, the upsurge in data traffic may be a burden on the existing network, since it is difficult to foresee sudden changes and immediately address the increased demands. One of the best ways for CSPs to respond is to analyze data traffic patterns and make improvements in specific areas of the network as necessary. Solutions that generate real-time, end-to-end visibility of their network services at the subscriber level can enable more dynamic service level adjustments and enhance user experience. With these kinds of approaches, CSPs can accurately assess subscribers’ data usage patterns and identify the specific areas where optimization or capacity reinforcement is required.

 

It is difficult to predict how long current uncertainties will last, but one thing is clear—maintaining connectivity is vital for society. CSPs should have the ability to accurately monitor data traffic usage and manage their networks accordingly.

 

1 According to European and Southeast Asian web traffic numbers taken from the same period (Mar 8 ~ Apr 6) in 2019 and 2020 respectively

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