Since the period when most governments started mandating lockdowns and encouraging social distancing at the beginning of 2020, many network operators, SaaS, OTT providers and CDNs have been reporting unprecedented spikes in traffic volumes and content demand. But what about the other side of the coin? If the demand for the Internet increased, did traffic volumes on every network increase? The answer may surprise you.
In the late winter of 2020, the utilization of the Internet as well as network traffic volumes rose to unprecedented levels on most networks. Although traffic volumes on ISP and mobile operating networks grew, IPX (IP Exchange) networks experience a sharp plunge during the government-mandated lockdowns, despite the billions of Internet users left homebound of several weeks. This happened because IPX networks are used when users are mobile, not stationary.
What is an IPX network?
IPX networks (not to be confused with IXPs) have been a part of the network ecosystem since 2008 for mobile operators and other service providers. Their primary purpose allows for the exchange of Internet Protocol traffic securely and at the expected quality of service to provide reliable Internet access for mobile users outside of their home country. This is especially prevalent on continents such as the Europe, where users cross country (and network) borders regularly, but still use the mobile data of their home country provider. For example, a French mobile data user can travel in Spain (within the Spanish network), and still receive service with the same or similar quality as if they were still in their home (French) network. Additionally, IPX networks make handling roaming easier for operators due to its multilateral or bilateral interconnection. This means that IPX providers to some extent either handle the contract and connectivity for operators or allow operators to sort that out among themselves.
Why did IPX traffic decrease during lockdown?
Given that the main function of an IPX network is to provide better roaming service, the traffic levels will naturally drop when users travel less. Therefore, during the COVID19 lockdown period the IPX traffic dropped. This claim is reflected in the figure below, which shows the increasing traffic of ISPs compared to the decreasing traffic of IPX. Mobile Operator Networks remain steady. This sharp drop in IPX traffic begins at the beginning of March, right when European governments began enforcing lockdown regulations and restricting travel. The pattern remains consistent until early May, where it begins to increase to pre-lockdown levels as regulations loosened and travel was permitted once again. Click here to learn more about traffic behavior during the COVID19 lockdowns in Europe.
Why it’s important to know your network
One of the most significant outcomes of the COVID19 lockdowns is the new demand for Internet services. In order to maintain a sense of “normality”, most everyday activities moved online, which challenged the sustainability of many network operators and content providers. For that reason, it has become more crucial for network operators to have excellent visibility and knowledge of network traffic behavior.
At BENOCS, we offer network analytics solutions for ISP and IPX networks. Our solutions are backed by powerful data to allow you and your team the visibility you need to make informed decisions about your network operations. To learn more about our analytics products, please click here.