Share of broadband subs reaching top of speed tiers rose during pandemic – OpenVault

HOBOKEN, NJ – The percentage of subscribers who are pushing against the upper limits of their broadband speed tiers has increased dramatically during the past 18 months, according to the 3Q 2021 OVBI (OpenVault Broadband Insights) report. The report was issued today by OpenVault, a market-leading source of SaaS-based revenue and network improvement solutions and data-driven insights for the broadband industry.

“Speed clipping” – defined as a subscriber exceeding 80% of provisioned broadband speed – spiked at nearly 400% of early pandemic levels in comparisons between May 2020 and September 2021 usage figures. Speed clipping can result in poor customer experiences that require customer care and network troubleshooting resources to resolve. In reality, the issues are not network-based and this effort and expense can be avoided through the use of proper analytics tools

While the number of gigabit subscribers has grown 4.5X over the last two years, the majority of subscribers (56.2%) remain in speed tier packages of 200 Mbps or slower. Speed clipping occurs as those subscribers access – often simultaneously by multiple users in the same household – high-bandwidth applications such as video streaming, gaming and video conferencing.

Using data from one of OpenVault's broadband providers, the report indicates that downstream speed clipping in September 2021 was close to 400% of the May 2020 figure during the 9 p.m. hour. In the upstream, where many providers are architecturally constrained by capacity limits, speed clipping peaked at a 150% increase during the 11:00 p.m. hour. Overall, speed clipping incidents were up 52.6% in the downstream and 48.8% in the upstream during the same time period.

Other findings from OpenVault's analysis of 3Q21 data patterns included:

  • Monthly weighted average usage – including both usage-based billing (UBB) and flat-rate billing (FRB) subscribers – was 434.9 GB, up 13% over 3Q20 and up slightly from 2Q21.
  • Monthly median usage continues to grow at a faster pace than average usage, indicating broad-based entrenchment of broadband within consumers' lives. In 3Q21, median usage growth of 21% was 61% higher than the 13% average usage growth.
  • Growth is happening significantly faster on systems that offer Flat-Rate Billing (FRB) plans versus those that utilize Usage-Based Billing (UBB). FRB subscribers usage growth was 52% more than that of UBB subscribers, resulting in usage per subscriber that was nearly 10% higher (458GB vs. 419GB); in addition, FRB-based networks exhibited 53% growth among extreme power users of 2 TB or more, while extreme power user growth among UBB subscribers was 39%.


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