Voice traffic is increasing during the pandemic
Voice traffic is seeing a resurgence during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as more people call into conference lines and reach out to stay in touch with one another.
Both Verizon and AT&T report that their networks have seen a 25% jump in voice traffic in the past week, as more states across the U.S. impose shelter-in-place orders and companies, schools and government agencies shift to telework and distance learning.
Verizon reported that the primary driver for its increased voice using is calling into conference lines. It is also seeing users talking longer on voice calls, saying that wireless voice usage was up 10% and calls are lasting 15% longer than usual.
“For years we’ve seen a steady decline in the amount of time people spend talking to one another, especially on wireless devices,” said Kyle Malady, Verizon CTO.“The move to staying at home has reignited people’s hunger to stay connected, voice-to-voice. Verizon’s fiber optic and wireless networks are continuing to meet the shifting demands of customers and continue to perform well.”
VPN usage was up 25% as well, and web traffic was up 22%, Verizon said. Those figures are based on comparing peak-hour traffic from the week of March 12 to peak-hour traffic during the week of March 19.
Malady went on to add that “We are in the first full week of this new American routine and we are certainly starting to see some patterns emerge. We anticipate we will see additional significant shifts in usage over the next few weeks as people adjust and adapt to the changing circumstances.”
Meanwhile, AT&T said that it saw voice traffic volume increase 25.5% over the past week, though 911 calls held steady. Data usage “has been essentially flat … as people head home and connect their devices to their personal Wi-Fi.”
Among its employee base, AT&T added, conference calls were up 19% as the company asked those who are able, to work from home. Instant messaging among its employees was 15 times higher than usual, the operator said.
AT&T also updated its pledge to customers related to overages, saying that it would waive overage charges for data, voice and texting for residential and small business wireless plans as of March 13, 2020, and for the next 60 days. The carrier said on Friday that it is widening its announced store closures to keep a minimal retail footprint; where possible, AT&T said, it would keep at least one retail location open per 20-mile radius in urban and suburban areas, and “just over a 30-mile radius” in rural areas.