Nokia Deepfield 2020 report shows huge spike in internet traffic and how well the network handled it

Nokia’s Deepfield service is a big data analytics platform allowing service providers (operators, telecoms) to have real-time insights into the state of their network. The service providers can improve their network based on the data collected and presented by Deepfield, allowing for a better end-user experience. Considering the year of 2020 was a special year in many aspects including unprecedented network traffic, Nokia decided to do a report that analyzed the state of the network from February to September.

The data was gathered for service providers in Europe and North America using Nokia’s Deepfield platform and compares data from pre-pandemic levels (prior to March 2020), first lockdown (March – May 2020), and six months into the pandemic (September 2020).

The key stats for the 2020 are that traffic increased 30%-50%, with videoconferencing (700%), gaming (150%) and videostreaming (100%) being the biggest growth categories. The number of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks increased as well. In September 2020, the traffic stabilized at  20-30% above pre-pandemic levels. Nokia says the network service providers handled the sudden increase in traffic very well, with great cooperation between different service providers that optimized their services (lower bandwidth for example) to ensure normal network operations.

Some interesting tidbits are that 5 domains accounted for 50% of the global traffic, while 90% of global traffic went to 150 domains. This means that the big services (Facebook, YouTube, Google) are getting bigger and bigger. Also, the average UK households now has 10 devices connected to the network compared to a few devices 10 years ago.

A good example of how video content providers helped the network during the 1st lockdown month where a sudden traffic spike was recorded is service throttling, or nicer said – lowering the streaming speeds. While this wasn’t a great thing for end users, keeping the same bandwidths would have probably caused problems for the whole network during the first months. I saw this as a sign that operators didn’t have the infrastructure to handle the increase in traffic, but in the end the combination of different moves by content providers and network operators turned great for keeping the internet speeds usable.

In the first lockdown week in EU, WhatsApp saw a huge spike in traffic of above 600% compared to the week before lockdown. PlayStation, Skype and other videoconferencing tools also saw a 2 to 3.5 times traffic increase. Netflix traffic grew 50%, with YouTube growing 13% compared to week before. These are huge increases in the period of just one week.

Nokia took a closer look at Zoom and how the popular videoconferencing service survived a great spike in usage without any service disruptions. When the lockdown started, Zoom started using a combination of different service providers to serve the video calls from Amazon to their own servers. That allowed Zoom to easily scale. In September 2020, Microsoft’s Teams surpassed Zoom in total traffic, most likely because of Teams being part of the Office suite and used by a lot of state institutions (schools, universities) in the EU and North America.

Xbox was also one of the services that lowered the download speeds for users during the day to ensure the stability of the network in the first months of lockdown. Nokia calculated that the traffic via Xbox servers grew 75-150% during the last 9 months. With the release of new consoles and more countries again going into lockdowns, the traffic will surely continue growing for Xbox services.

Lastly, the “bad guys” also increased their activity during lockdown. By looking at the data of 5 major US service providers, Nokia noticed that DDoS attacks traffic grew from around 200 terabytes per day before the pandemic to close to 400 terabytes per day during the peek in April. Amazon recorded a 2.3Tbps flooding attack on their infrastructure, which was the most powerful one recorded to date. Their Amazon Web Services using the AWS Shield successfully protected the infrastructure.

The report is quite interesting and you can download it from the official Nokia site (by signing up with a form) here. You can also try this direct link if you don’t like forms.