COVID-19 - Electronic communications traffic increases by about 50%


Electronic communications traffic has been increasing due to the adoption of measures of protection against COVID-19 contagion (see table below), by about 47% in the case of voice traffic and 52% in the case of data. In addition to this, according to the available information, there have been significant changes in the patterns of use of electronic communications services.

Increased traffic compared to the period before the pandemic (*)

Voice traffic

Data traffic

 

Total: 47%

Mobile 41%

 

Fixed: 94%

 

Total: 52%

 Mobile: 24%

 

Fixed: 54%

(*) ANACOM estimate based on the most recent data reported up to 24.03.2020 by the 3 largest operators

In fact, there has been significant growth of fixed voice traffic (+94%) in contrast with the reduction observed in previous years (in 2019 this type of traffic fell by 15%). It should be recalled that voice traffic has been falling since the beginning of 2013. On the other hand, the relative weight of fixed voice has increased in relation to mobile voice (which has grown less than fixed voice).

Growth of fixed broadband traffic also intensified (+53.7%), which had been slowing down (29% growth in 2019). It is thus expected that average traffic per fixed access should continue to increase (which stood at 131 GB/month in 2019) and move even further away from average traffic of mobile access (4 GB/month in 2019), as mobile data traffic is growing at rates lower than those of fixed traffic.

It should be noted that this evolution is in conformity with the best practices that are recommended to prevent network congestion, namely “using the fixed telephone whenever possible instead of the mobile to make calls” and “whenever possible, using wi-fi instead of the mobile broadband connection”. ANACOM provides on its website Best practices for using electronic communications networks and serviceshttps://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1522194, other examples of how consumers and users can overload the networks less and contribute to their better functioning.

According to the information of come providers, the profile of use throughout the day has not changed significantly, apart from a notably higher reduction of traffic at mealtimes and a widespread increase of traffic in the period 7H-23H, with a peak at 22H.

No relevant congestions have been reported

At this stage, ANACOM will continue to actively exercise its powers, with ongoing monitoring of the situation. Namely, by regularly investigating among the operators on how COVID-19 is affecting their activities, how traffic is evolving, whether there are situations of network congestion arising from increased demand, whether there are there constraints in terms of supplies, what measures are being adopted, including in terms of protection of workers that could be critical to the activities of these companies, the type of articulation that is being made with other companies, especially with respect to civil protection, and how the emergency communications are being processed.

The reporting made by the operators does not, up to date, refer to relevant situations of congestion, and ANACOM has no record of situations of significant impact among the users. This situation is in line with what is being observed in other countries of the European Union, as was highlighted in the joint press release of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and European Commission (EC) issued on 19 March (see BEREC and European Commission issue joint statement on the increase of traffic following COVID-19).

It should be noted that the operators have already made public statements to the effect that they have been strengthening their networks to withstand the increased traffic, including at peak periods, and that the goal is to ensure the integrity and continuity of the networks and services.

It is also important, in the current context, in which increasingly more people are confined to their home and using the Internet, to warn the population of the situations of fraud that the criminal police (PJ), military police (GNR) and National Cybersecurity Centre are detecting. It is crucial to pay attention to the warnings of the authorities and disseminate them whenever possible through contact networks, in order to put a stop to this fraudulent conduct. Further information at Fraud and cyberattacks related to COVID-19 are increasinghttps://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1522189.