Investment enables Comcast to manage network demands in 2020 | Media Analysis | Business | News | Rapid TV News
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Strategic core infrastructure investment, combined with advancements in software, have been cited as the primary factors by Comcast as allowing its network to perform at a high level despite massive demand from tens of millions of Americans transitioning to working and learning from home.
Comcast Network dig 3March2021
This has been the key finding of Comcast’s 2020 Network Data report, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 as the world approaches the one-year anniversary of the widespread pandemic stay-at-home shift. 2020 traffic patterns revealed a sharp traffic surge in March and April 220 – with massive use of gaming and online video, in addition to business applications such as video conferencing - followed by a transition into a more typical, although still elevated, growth trend throughout the balance of the year.

“The Internet was a bright spot during the darkest hours of 2020, keeping hundreds of millions of people connected to work, school, entertainment, and most importantly, each other,” noted Tony Werner, president of technology, product, Xperience at Comcast Cable. “We’re proud of the years of strategic investment and innovation that enabled us to build the foundation of a high-speed, intelligent network designed to scale to the needs of our most demanding users, and also adapt to unexpected events.”

In the span of 4 months in the wake of pandemic lockdowns, Comcast’s network experienced almost 2 years’ worth of traffic growth. For the first time ever, as Comcast customers surfed, streamed and emailed more than ever before, they generated more than a trillion Internet requests (DNS lookups) each day.

Peak Internet traffic was found to have risen 32% compared with pre-pandemic levels, and over 50% in some Comcast markets in March. Peak downstream traffic in 2020 increased approximately 385 over 2019 levels and peak upstream traffic increased approximately 56% over 2019 levels. Despite the growth in upstream traffic – mainly from applications such as gaming - traffic patterns remained highly asymmetrical, as downstream traffic volumes were 14x higher than upstream traffic volumes throughout 2020.

Surprisingly, said the research, despite increases in videoconferencing activity, entertainment activities continued to dominate network traffic, with video streaming accounting for 71% of all downstream traffic, and growing by 70% compared with 2019 levels. Other key drivers of downstream traffic in 2020 were online gaming and the accompanying software downloads (10%), and web browsing (8%). And Despite growth in video conferencing traffic, it still only accounted for less than 5% of overall network usage.

Comcast noted that even throughout the unprecedented increase in demand and traffic, it continued to deliver above-advertised speeds to customers across the US, including in areas most affected by Covid-19. It added that what it called the “remarkable” performance of the network during this time could be attributed both to “outstanding” work by technical and care teams throughout the pandemic and to “key innovations” in strategic technological investment before the pandemic began.

The cable co revealed in the 2020 Network Data report 2020 Network Data report that from 2017 to 2020, it had invested more than $15 billion to expand, strengthen and evolve its network and that over the same period it had built an additional 39,153 route miles of fibre into the network, and made thousands of capacity augments from the core of the network down to individual neighbourhoods.

Company engineers also built multiple new smart software platforms – powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning – to detect and fix problems before they affect customers. One of those software platforms, Comcast Octave – the completion of which was accelerated by Comcast engineers in response to the pandemic – was said to have enabled the operator to increase upstream capacity by up to 36%, right at the time when traffic levels began to surge.