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A view of Internet Traffic Shifts at ISP and IXPs during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Feldmann, Anja; Gasser, Oliver; Lichtblau, Franziska; Pujol, Enric; Poese, Ingmar; Dietzel, Christoph; Wagner, Daniel; Wichtlhuber, Matthias; Tapiador, Juan; Vallina-Rodriguez, Narseo; Hohlfeld, Oliver; Smaragdakis, Georgios

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments imposed lockdowns that forced hundreds of millions of citizens to stay at home. The implementation of confinement measures increased Internet traffic demands of residential users, in particular, for remote working, entertainment, commerce, and education, which, as a result, caused traffic shifts in the Internet core. In this paper, using data from a diverse set of vantage points (one ISP, three IXPs, and one metropolitan educational network), we examine the effect of these lockdowns on traffic shifts. We find that the traffic volume increased by 15-20% almost within a week – while overall still modest, this constitutes a large increase within this short time period. However, despite this surge, we observe that the Internet infrastructure is able to handle the new volume, as most traffic shifts occur outside of traditional peak hours. When looking directly at the traffic sources, it turns out that, while hypergiants still contribute a significant fraction of traffic, we see (1) a higher increase in traffic of non-hypergiants, and (2) traffic increases in applications that people use when at home, such as Web conferencing, VPN, and gaming. While many networks see increased traffic demands, in particular, those providing services to residential users, academic networks experience major overall decreases. Yet, in these networks, we can observe substantial increases when considering applications associated to remote working and lecturing.
Published in: COVID-19 Network Impacts Workshop, Internet Architecture Board (IAB)