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.
‘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’.
As a cautionary measure, Openreach has suspended home visits for engineers installing new broadband connections. It also means that work will not be done to help customers switch providers if it means a home visit is required.
Exceptions will be made for ‘vulnerable’ users such as elderly people.
Openreach says that it has to focus on maintenance and supporting the UK’s infrastructure at this time.
‘A large amount of the work we do can be completed outside, and we can often fix problems without entering a customer’s property,’ explained a spokesman.
‘So, we’re advising our engineers not to complete any work inside a property unless it would leave a vulnerable customer with no form of connection, and it’s not possible to provide one by any other means.’
Kate Bevan, Which? Computing editor, said: ‘With so many people at home trying to get online either to work, home school their children or contact loved ones, a good connection is crucial in these uncertain times – so it is understandable that Openreach is focusing on maintenance and repair.
‘This should not affect most customers looking to switch provider, but some may not want to go ahead if an engineer does need to visit their home.
‘Anyone struggling with sluggish broadband should make sure their router is somewhere central, always keep it switched on and try changing your wifi channel. If all else fails it might be time to switch.’
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