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'Power users' consuming 1 TB+ per month have almost doubled – OpenVault

It's no secret that overall broadband data consumption has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new study from OpenVault shows that "power users" – those who consume at least 1 terabyte of data per month – have almost doubled.

According to OpenVault's Broadband Insights Report (OVBI) for Q4 2020, 14.1% of weighted average subscribers consume over 1 TB per month, up 94% from 7.3% in Q4 2019.

FRB: Flat-rate billing 
UBB: Usage-based billing 
Click here for a larger version of this image.
FRB: Flat-rate billing
UBB: Usage-based billing
Click here for a larger version of this image.

Meanwhile, "extreme power users" – defined as broadband customers who chew up at least 2 TB per month – now represent 2.2% of all subs, a 184% increase from from OpenVault's Q4 2019 study.

OpenVault's study also found that average, monthly weighted usage topped 482.6 gigabytes in Q4 2020, up from 344 GB (+40%) in the year-ago quarter, and up nearly 26% from Q3 2020. The Q4 2020 average climbs to 496.6 GB among broadband subs on flat-rate (unlimited) billing policies, and drops to 472.3GB among those on capped, usage-based plans.

FRB: Flat-rate billing 
UBB: Usage-based billing 
Click here for a larger version of this image.
FRB: Flat-rate billing
UBB: Usage-based billing
Click here for a larger version of this image.

Over half (53.6%) of all subscribers in the study now routinely consume more than 250 gigabytes of data each month. OpenVault called that an "important benchmark," considering it placed 250 GB monthly users in the power user category just a few years ago.

Among other findings, OpenVault said 8.5% of broadband customers are now provisioned for speeds of at least 1 Gbit/s, up 301% from 2.8% in Q4 2019.

Meanwhile, average upstream bandwidth usage in December 2020 reached 31 GB, a 63% increase over the year-ago period. This upward trend has caused cable operators to prioritize capacity needs for the upstream on their widely deployed hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) netoworks, spurring them to pursue "mid-split" or "high-split" upgrades that boost the amount of spectrum dedicated to the upstream.

According to OpenVault, here's how overall usage trends compared in 2020 versus 2019:

Click here for a larger version of this image.
Click here for a larger version of this image.

OpenVault's study is based on anonymized, aggregated traffic generated by its ISP customer base, with results largely focused on the company's US customers.

The latest batch of results emerge as broadband service providers are under increased pressure to pull back or curtail their deployment of usage-based data policies and data caps during a pandemic that has amplified the critical need for connectivity.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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