Upstream data usage flattens, but gigabit rate subscribers continue to increase
After what it called rapid growth fueled by a pandemic last year, OpenVault released data on network consumption showing that network users have continued to adapt to the new broadband environment by adopting faster speeds, with moderate data usage in Q1 2021.
In the provider of revenue improvement systems and Software as a Service (SaaS) based networks Broadband Industry Report (OVBI) For Q1 2021, the main finding was that broadband usage in Q1 2021 looked familiar, as normal seasonal patterns of data usage appear to be returning, in line with pre-pandemic seasonal patterns.
This meant that after a year 2020 which it said was as far from normal as possible, OpenVault noted that broadband returned to historic trends of sequential stable growth (quarter over quarter), even small drops in the first quarter of the year.
Almost a tenth (9.8%) of all subscribers had expected gigabit speeds by the end of the first quarter, an increase of 261% from the 3.8% figure in the first quarter 20, and an increase by 15% compared to the adoption rate of 8.5% in the last three months of 2020. In the last two quarters, the percentage of subscribers provisioned for the gigabit service increased by 75%, compared to 5 , 6% in Q3-20.
The report also noted that just over four-fifths of network subscribers were configured for speeds of 100 Mbps or more, and less than 5% are at 20 Mbps or slower. Subscribers to usage-based billing (UBB) plans were switching to faster plans faster than flat-rate billing (FRB) plans. The percentage of UBB subscribers on 100 Mbps levels in Q1-21 increased by 35% year-on-year, more than double the annual growth of 17% for FRB subscribers.
OpenVault’s analysis of Q1 21 data models also found that monthly weighted average usage – including UBB and FRB subscribers – was 461.7 GB, up almost 15% from 402 , 5 GB a year earlier and down 4.3% from 482.6 GB in the fourth quarter of 2020 OpenVault considered the slight quarter-over-quarter decline to be in line with historical trends in the first quarter .
Upstream consumption was found to be stable in a context of a seasonal decline in average use. Almost all of the decline in average monthly usage occurred downstream, with average monthly upstream usage remaining relatively stable compared to the 31 GB recorded in Q4-20.
Power usage and extreme power use – defined as consumption of more than 1TB and 2TB per month, respectively – declined in Q1-21, with the percentage of the former dropping 12% to 12 , 4% on an annual basis and compared to the 14.1% recorded at the end of the fourth quarter of last year. The percentage of extreme power users decreased 14% to 1.8% from 2.2% in Q4 20. 1TB advanced users on UBB plans decreased 15.4% in Q1- 21, while the drop for 1TB users on unlimited FRB plans was less than half that, at 7.1%.
Although he stressed that he does not track device usage, OpenVault observed that the drops are linked to the return of subscribers to office and school environments. He also reported that UBB operators were more successful at slowing the trajectory of bandwidth usage on their network than FRB operators, although the former had a higher percentage of broadband and higher ARPU subscribers.
He concluded by saying that the growing gap in Q1-21 in total bandwidth usage between UBB networks and those of FRB networks, and the implications in terms of revenue and profitability that it may represent, were worth worth watching.