Virgin Media reveals biggest download day on record and massive shift in online habits this lockdown

04 March 2021

  • Coinciding with the latest Call of Duty: Warzone update, Virgin Media records its busiest day on record with the average user downloading more than 20GB of data in a single day
  • The nation is burning through more data than ever, spending more time online during the afternoon and staying logged on late into the evening, based on new analysis of more than five million broadband customers.
  • In lockdown three, when schools were closed, customers downloaded 3.1GB more data per day compared to the first lockdown, with afternoons becoming the busiest time of day for upstream traffic
  • Shifts in online habits suggest that the nation has embraced home working and learning even more than during the first lockdown 

The latest data released today by Virgin Media shows the impact that sustained lockdown measures are having on the nation’s internet habits.

Download traffic on Virgin Media’s network reached new record levels on Thursday 25 February as gamers nationwide rushed to download the latest update of Call of Duty: Warzone.

Over the course of just one 24 hour period, the average user consumed a whopping 20.77GB of data, nearly 3.5GB more than the already record breaking daily average of 2020.

The news comes as the UK approaches the one year anniversary of the first lockdown, and reveals that the nation’s appetite for data is continuing to grow, with customers now using their broadband more intensively than ever.

New analysis of more than five million Virgin Media broadband customers across January and February reveals a marked shift in behaviour, with weekday afternoons becoming the busiest time of day for upstream traffic for the first time ever.

Upstream traffic – generated through activities such as video calling, sending emails and uploading documents – has increased during weekday afternoons faster than at any other time of day. The peak period for people sending data is now between 2pm and 4pm, a core period for many remote workers and home learners, and represents a shift away from the long-established pattern of evenings being the busiest time on the network.

During this new afternoon peak period, upstream traffic has increased three-fold on pre-pandemic levels and is up 35% on the first lockdown, suggesting households across the country are better set up to embrace flexible working and home learning compared with the first lockdown.

With upload traffic growing rapidly while traditional voice calls – which saw an initial surge during the first lockdown before quickly returning to normal – remaining steady, the data suggests households are embracing video calls to stay connected.

Download traffic has increased during the third national lockdown, too. Throughout January and February, as schools were closed and temperatures plummeted, customers downloaded an extra 7.4GB of data per day when compared to the same time last year before lockdown measures were put in place. That’s enough extra data to download all eight episodes of Bridgerton in HD each day and means customers are now using 3.1GB more data each day than during the first lockdown peak.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Virgin Media, said:

“Our network is carrying more data than ever as consumers continue to adapt and embrace new technology that helps them work, learn, socialise and stay entertained from home.

“We’re committed to keeping up with demand and helping our customers stay connected at a time when our ultrafast and reliable services have never been more important to millions of people’s lives.”

The news follows analysis released by Virgin Media in December, which showed that data usage in 2020 on the operator’s network was at its highest ever level. Throughout the year, customers consumed a record-breaking amount of data, tuned into more TV, and spent longer on the phone.

Notes to Eds

Before lockdown / before the pandemic - refers to average data usage across the six weeks leading up to the first lockdown (3 February 2020 – 15 March 2020)

First lockdown – refers to average data usage across the first six weeks of lockdown one (16 March 2020 – 26 April 2020)

Lockdown three – refers to average data usage across the first six weeks of lockdown three (3 January 2021 – 14 February 2021)