UK internet use doubles in 2020 due to pandemic

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Happy children at home watching videos on a tablet computer using headphones and smilingImage source, Getty Images

UK internet use more than doubled in 2020, as people stayed home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boxing Day was the busiest day for broadband users, according to data from Openreach, which runs much of the UK's broadband network.

Over the festive period, large parts of the country were put into tier four restrictions, and Christmas gatherings were limited.

Live sport, online gaming and home-working all contributed to the boost.

Openreach operates the cables, ducts, and other infrastructure used by many other providers, including BT and Sky. It said that this year:

  • Openreach customers consumed 50,000 petabytes of data this year, compared to 22,000 in 2019
  • Properties connected to its fibre broadband used, on average, nine gigabytes of data a day
  • On Boxing Day, a record 210 petabytes was used on the network

A mix of video calls to get in touch with family and friends, as well as TV streaming and gaming downloads were contributing factors to the 26 December record, it said.

Media caption,

Do you know the etiquette of video calling?

The year's second-busiest day was 14 November, as Amazon Prime broadcast two live rugby matches. Openreach said usage surged just before kick off.

Online gaming also had a big impact on the UK's broadband consumption, with many of the major data spikes focussed around updates to popular PlayStation, PC and Xbox games - including Call of Duty and Fortnite.

Colin Lees, chief technology and information officer at Openreach, said that the company's network had worked hard to "make sure there's enough network capacity for every eventuality".

"It's been a year unlike any other and we believe that's played a major part in this huge jump in data consumption," he said of the pandemic.

"We know more businesses asked their employees to work from home throughout most of 2020, so connecting remotely has been and continues to be important for everyone."