The impact of COVID-19 has been widespread. In terms of business operations, one of the most noticeable effects has been the uptick in remote working. With millions of people currently working from home, a question that we’re seeing more and more is this: can our wifi handle it?
With the sheer volume of people now relying on home internet services, the fear is that speed and performance are being negatively affected – but just how valid are these concerns?
Ultimately, the answer to this question is both yes and no.
A better title for this might almost be “how remote working is helping you realize that your wifi is never sufficient in the first place”. We have worked with a variety of organizations, from universities and school districts to private companies, and a common thread that runs between them is a realization that their last-mile network connections aren’t sufficient.
However, that isn’t to say this increase in remote working hasn’t led to a highly abnormal rate of usage.
In the current circumstances, what we’re seeing is a broader window of peak usage. Whereas in the past we might have seen a peek at 5 or 6 p.m., now we’re witnessing a consistently high peak throughout the day. If you look at the data surrounding the internet, however, it shows us that it is more or less designed for peak capacity usage. Given this, it’s not so surprising that it has done well to withstand this uptick in remote working.
Internet providers of the likes of Cogent and CenturyLink have done a good job of coping with the sheer volume of traffic. Content providers on the back-end have been working closely with such carriers to make sure that they don’t tax the system too hard, ensuring the critical infrastructure stays together.
We can look towards Netflix and YouTube for examples of this. Both have agreed to cut the bitrate and lower the quality of their streams to relieve pressure off of the system. These are just two instances within a whole ecosystem of providers from your last-mile delivery (eg. AT&T), up to your core internet traffic ( eg. Cogent and CenturyLink) and on to the end content providers. All of these levels have had to work together admirably to adjust to the increase in peak usage.
Of course, all of this isn’t to say internet service has been flawless, and there have been some issues at the last mile. There have also been some degradations and local challenges. The public cloud, for instance, has taken a hit and suffered from some outages. On the whole, however, we are seeing that wifi isn’t being as severely impacted as people fear.
With all of this considered, we can say with confidence that our internet infrastructure has fared well throughout this time. In terms of last-mile issues, it’s in cases like this where those who are left wondering why their Zoom meeting isn’t working too well. They may come to find that it wouldn’t have worked well six months ago either. It may just be time to invest in a bigger circuit.