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Comcast says voice and video calls have skyrocketed 212 percent during widespread self-isolation

Comcast says voice and video calls have skyrocketed 212 percent during widespread self-isolation


Traffic zooms up as more people work from home

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Voice and video calls have more than tripled on Comcast’s network over the past month since people across the US started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a blog post this afternoon, Comcast said traffic for that category is up 212 percent in total, with overall peak traffic on its network up by 32 percent. In some cities, like San Francisco and Seattle, Comcast says peak traffic is up closer to 60 percent.

The numbers quantify a trend that’s been plainly obvious to anyone working or going to school from home in recent weeks. Video chats — particularly over Zoom — have become a regular occurrence, as offices and universities look for new ways to hold meetings and classes. Yoga, parties, and dates are all happening over Zoom right now.

Comcast says it doesn’t need video streamers to reduce their quality

Comcast says it’s seen other major shifts in data usage over the past month to accommodate working from home. Uploads are now at their peak throughout the workday, whereas they used to spike in the evening. And as you’d expect, streaming video and gaming have seen increases, too. Video consumption is up 38 percent, and game downloads are up 50 percent on Comcast’s network.

AT&T is seeing an increase in usage of its network, too. Last week, it saw weekday traffic increases of around 30 percent month over month, with a spike in texting and Wi-Fi calling.

Both Comcast and AT&T said that, despite the increases in usage, their networks are doing just fine. AT&T writes that its network is “performing well.” For Comcast, the additional traffic is “well within the capabilities of the network,” Tony Werner, Comcast’s tech leader, said on a call with reporters this afternoon.

While streaming video companies have reduced their streaming quality across Europe to address bandwidth issues, Werner says Comcast hasn’t asked for similar treatment in the US and doesn’t need it. “We have not seen an issue up to this point,” he said. Streaming video data is heaviest on weekends, he said, so it’s less likely to interfere with people working from home.

Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.

Correction March 30th, 5:45PM ET: AT&T’s traffic increases were around 30 percent last week on weekdays. This story initially highlighted a 19 percent mont-over-month increase, which occurred on a Sunday, without specifying the day.