Networks will cope with the remote working boom and home schooling

The coronavirus situation has emptied offices, and now schools and other educational institutions are following suit. At the same time, there is an increased need to stay in touch with family, friends and absent colleagues.  As much is clearly evident in DNA’s network: the call minutes and data use of people working from home already started to spike at the end of last week. 

For the time being, the sharpest peak in call traffic occurred on Thursday, 12 March, when the government held a press conference and laid out its initial policies, for instance, cancelling mass events due to the coronavirus epidemic. On 12–15 March, the spike was up to 40% compared to a normal end of the week or weekend. 

According to the server load data, both the number and duration of calls have increased. In normal weekends, the number of calls is 30–35% lower than on weekdays; last weekend, it reached the level of an average weekday. 

Normally, DNA’s network has excellent capacity, as it is always measured according to the heaviest access peak. At the end of last week, DNA’s network showed a clear increase in the number of call minutes and data use. 

For example, during the government’s later press conference regarding the state of emergency, the voice traffic on DNA’s 4G network almost doubled compared to a normal weeknight. 

“Many people probably followed the press conference and wanted to contact their friends and family. In practice, this indicates that traditional voice traffic increased rather than, say, Internet voice communication services. At DNA, we are prepared for service usage peaks, and the readiness of our network is excellent,” says Jarkko Laari, Director, Radio Networks, DNA.

The amount of mobile data showed a clear increase of approximately 10% between the Friday and Sunday before the schools closed. 

During the Monday morning on 16 March, the use of mobile data went up by up to 34% compared to the corresponding period on the previous Monday. The reason is a large-scale switch to remote working as well as an increase in the use of streaming services.

The change has been rapid: in 2018, roughly one Finn in five was remote working on a monthly basis or more frequently. Back then, 14% of the working-age population was remote working on a daily or weekly basis.

Digital home life will increase network load but there is enough capacity

The Finns currently isolated at home will place a greater load on the network by using online education services and probably also by spending more time playing online games and using streaming services. 

One of the “Netflixes of games”, Steam, has reported that the number of their users has jumped to 20 million. One hour of an HD-quality Netflix movie equals roughly 3GB, and thousands of players may be downloading, say, a 100GB package for a game at the same time. Do we need to be worried? 

On the fixed network, data use seems to have increased slightly more moderately compared to calls and mobile data. From the end of the week, there was less than 10% growth compared to the normal situation. 

“Going forward, it is also unlikely that the entertainment consumption resulting from staying at home will jam the network because, in this situation, service use will spread over several hours a day, compared to the previous peak between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Furthermore, DNA’s network has been allocated a lot of extra capacity on the basis of previous usage peaks,” says Ville Virtanen, Head of Department, Access Network, DNA.

In other words, there is no need to worry about network congestion, with regard to socially critical traffic any more than family entertainment. 

For example, due to the coronavirus, DNA has distributed network management to different physical locations to ensure operational security in case the epidemic becomes worse. The operative employees are teleworking to avoid infecting each other. There are also enough spare parts to maintain the network elements in store for several months. 

However, based on the usage statistics, there seems to be one bottleneck in terms of remote connections:  the number of VPN connections. VPN materially improves the security of remote working, so all remote workers should have access to it. 

The 5G network is also growing rapidly in the Helsinki metropolitan area, for example. Check the availability of 5G here.