WISPA FYI - COVID-19's Effect on Fixed Wireless Network Use

In early August, WISPA surveyed its WISP providers on the effect the pandemic has had on network use, changes in download and upload traffic, and network responses, among other matters.  From this non-scientific survey, we were able to observe a number of notable insights on how WISPs – who serve approximately 6 million Americans in rural and urban communities – deliver broadband to their customers in these trying times. 

As a topline, while HD movie streaming continues to be a significant bandwidth driver both pre- and post-COVID, not surprisingly shut-in practices boosted virtual meetings/webinars and distance learning to the most used applications during the pandemic.  As a consequence of this change, download traffic and upload traffic surged, pushing our members to upgrade both last-mile and backhaul capacity.  This noted, usage remains highly asymmetrical during COVID, with only a small minority of customers citing faster upload speeds as a reason for upgrading their service packages where requested.  Finally, though customer bandwidth needs have seemingly increased during the pandemic, the most popular service package for consumers is FCC-benchmarked broadband, even where symmetric gigabit services are available.  
Please find below more granular details of our survey.
Top 5 uses pre COVID
  • HD movies streaming
  • Email
  • Web browsing
  • Gaming
  • Music streaming
Top 5 uses during COVID
  • Virtual meetings/Webinars
  • Distance learning
  • HD movie streaming
  • Telemedicine
  • Web browsing
WISPs upgrading delivery network since COVID
  • 82% have
WISPs purchasing additional capacity from bandwidth suppliers since COVID
  • 58% have
Top 5 “speed” packages chosen during COVID
  • 25/3
  • 10/1
  • 50/5
  • 100/20
  • 100/100
Average of asymmetric traffic characteristics during COVID
  • 7 – 1 (down to up)
Average change of download traffic at peak from pre to present COVID
  • +43%
Average change of upload traffic at peak from pre to present COVID
  • +70%
Percentage of customers who upgraded citing need for greater upload speed due to COVID
  • 12%
WISPA’s 1000 members are composed of fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the industry that supports fixed wireless broadband, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components needed to run a successful business. Our members, and WISPs, in general, provide broadband access to over 6 million residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.
Mike Wendy