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December 10, 2020

Prof. Dr. Anja Feldmann

New study by BIFOLD researchers: How did COVID-19 impact internet traffic?

BIFOLD PIs Prof. Dr. Anja Feldmann and Prof. Dr. Georgios Smaragdakis (INET group at TU Berlin) published a research study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Internet traffic in the Proceedings of the ACM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC ’20).

For their study, Professors Feldmann and Smaragdakis and their colleagues (BENOCS, Brandenburg University of Technology, DE-CIX, ICSI, IMDEA Networks, Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Universidad Carlos III Madrid) analyzed massive network data from multiple Internet vantage points (residential and mobile networks, Internet exchange points, educational networks) in Europe and the US before, during, and after the lockdown. Their analysis sheds light on the surge in the Internet traffic and the traffic of applications related to teleworking and teleconferencing, characterizes the rapid changes on the Internet traffic profile, but also confirms that the Internet was able to cope well with the demand.


Anja Feldmann, Oliver Gasser, Franziska Lichtblau, Enric Pujol, Ingmar Poese, Christoph Dietzel, Daniel Wagner, Matthias Wichtlhuber, Juan Tapiador, Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez, Oliver Hohlfeld, Georgios Smaragdakis

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments imposed lock downs that forced hundreds of millions of citizens to stay at home. The implementation of confinement measures increased Internet traffic demands of residential users, in particular, for remote working, entertainment, commerce, and education, which, as a result, caused traffic shifts in the Internet core. In this paper, using data from a diverse set of vantage points (one ISP, three IXPs, and one metropolitan educational network), we examine the effect of these lockdowns on traffic shifts. We find that the traffic volume increased by 15-20% almost within a week–while overall still modest, this constitutes a large increase within this short time period. However, despite this surge, we observe that the Internet infrastructure is able to handle the new volume, as most traffic shifts occur outside of traditional peak hours. When looking directly at the traffic sources, it turns out that, while hypergiants still contribute a significant fraction of traffic, we see (1) a higher increase in traffic of non-hypergiants, and (2) traffic increases in applications that people use when at home, such as Web conferencing, VPN, and gaming. While many networks see increased traffic demands, in particular, those providing services to residential users, academic networks experience major overall decreases. Yet, in these networks, we can observe substantial increases when considering applications associated to remote working and lecturing.

IMC ’20: Proceedings of the ACM Internet Measurement Conference October 2020 Pages 1–18