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The luckier country

Paul Brislen, Editor. 25 March 2020, 10:28 am

The new norm will see massive numbers of staff working remotely for the first time since the introduction of the Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) network, so how are we doing?

Chorus says it's seen the largest spike in traffic on the network at 2.75 Tbit/s (terabits per second) last night, albeit at 9.05pm which would suggest either we were working hard for our money or kicking back watching a lot of television. That's well above the record set during the Rugby World Cup of 2.6 Tbit/s.

The good news is, there's plenty more capacity where that came from, assuming of course the Retail Service Providers all live up to their end of the network bargain and buy enough capacity on international links and elsewhere in their networks.

By contrast, internationally Italy's internet traffic increased by 40% during lockdown and we've seen similar issues around other hard-hit areas as well. The UK and parts of Europe have seen Netflix and other video providers downscale video streams to reduce the file size in an attempt to allow more traffic through. Fingers crossed we don't get to that point here or the howls of outrage from our younger household members may be too much to bear.

Video conferencing doesn't use as much capacity as streaming HD television of course but even so we're seeing a cultural shift away from face-to-face meetings to the wonderful world of Skype, Teams, Zoom and all the others. That's going to shake up the usual traffic patterns considerably.

The bad news is that while the future is definitely here, it's not evenly distributed and capacity for rural and remote users remains limited. Copper lines, fixed wireless and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) capability is a lot lower than fibre to the home and unfortunately these are the very users who need to be connected the most at the moment.

Meanwhile the Telecommunications Carriers Forum is reminding everyone about the likely weakest link in the chain from user to telco and beyond: the home area network.

The TCF has put together a guide for workers from home, and of course has a home wiring guide in case you feel like upgrading the home network in your quieter moments. I'd suggest we all think of our families before attempting such a feat but I'm not your mum.

Chorus and the other network providers will be watching closely to ensure the traffic patterns remain stable and manageable. For now, we're well placed - compared with Australia and the government's claim that 25Mbit/s is all any household really needs, we're in a very good place indeed.


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