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Research: Pandemic no match for resilient internet infrastructure

14 Dec 2020

An international team of researchers has examined the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global internet infrastructure and found that it has met the challenges presented by the global rise in pressure. 

In the period from January to June 2020, data traffic was examined at internet Exchanges in Central and Southern Europe, as well as on the US East Coast.

The study was conducted by internet Exchanges operator DE-CIX, together with BENOCS GmbH, the Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus-Senftenberg, the IMDEA Networks Institute in Madrid, the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, and the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid,

The use of videoconferencing services and virtual private networks (VPNs) for access to company resources from the home environment has risen sharply. 

Within a few days in March, the average global data traffic rose between 15% and 30%, depending on the region. 

The core hours of usage also shifted. Before COVID-19, the main time of use was in the evening hours during the week, whereas since March it has been spread equally across the day. 

This means that, for the first time, network utilisation on weekdays resembles that on weekends. 

The global pandemic has significantly accelerated the growth of data traffic worldwide. 

In 2020, DE-CIX New York’s peak traffic increased by 50%. In December 2019 peaks measured below 600Gbps, while in November 2020 peaks were just over 900Gbps, marking the largest increase in peak traffic within a single year since DE-CIX New York launched in 2014.

“With all the changes in use and the extreme growth in global data traffic this year – which we have also observed in Frankfurt – there has been growing concern among users that the internet will not sustain this growth long-term. But the exact opposite is the case: The internet has defied the pandemic, bearing the protracted global burden of COVID-19 – and we have now been able to prove this scientifically,” states DE-CIX products and research global head and study research team member Dr. Christoph Dietzel. 

“The internet – the ‘network of networks’ consisting of more than 60,000 sub-networks – was conceived of decades ago to ensure worldwide communication even in extreme situations (such as pandemics). The increase in usage is mainly occurring outside the previous peak usage times (e.g. during the day while working from home). The effects of the increased traffic volume can easily be absorbed: either by using existing reserve capacity, or by quickly switching additional bandwidth. The internet is robust and adaptable enough to withstand the pandemic – even in the event of another strict lockdown.”