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A Year in Lockdown … Internet usage in the UK has increased by 78% year-on-year, since the first lockdown

Netflix demand has also surged by 136% as people sought ‘entertainment escapism’ throughout the pandemic

Zen Internet has revealed key trends in broadband usage between March 2020 and March 2021 as internet traffic soars during Covid-19 hit year.

The stats reveal that internet usage in the UK has increased by 78% year-on-year, since the first lockdown in March 2020. With people spending more time in the confinement of their homes, a large proportion of British adults have spent prolonged periods working from home, children have had to access connectivity for home-schooling requirements and demand in entertainment streaming services has sky-rocketed.

When lockdown was officially announced on 23rd March 2020, there was a small reprieve where Brits put down their devices to watch the Prime Minister address the nation and officially announce severe restrictions across the country. The address alone resulted in the biggest drop in UK’s average traffic consumption in the year (down 9%).

Entertainment escapism

Lockdown measures enforced due to the Covid-19 pandemic brought about a surge in TV watching and online film streaming across the nation. More people than ever have turned to entertainment to provide light relief in the midst of Covid-19 dominated news, which saw traffic to BBC sites increase by a staggering 220%.

As a result, this surge in demand saw Netflix traffic increasing 136% in a year, compared to a 28% increase the year prior (2019 to 2020). Amazon also saw a 143% rise year-on year.

The explosive growth of gaming during the pandemic has also highlighted how many have found a new outlet for much-needed connection in isolation. The Xbox launch on 10th October 2021 saw an 11% rise in traffic across the network.


Demand peaks

Households across the country have accessed more bandwidth than ever over the last year thanks not only to the shift to remote working and entertainment, but also online shopping. As a result, daytime internet usage increased by 75% and the evening peak by 65%.

During a month usually associated with social events and family gatherings, December 2020 proved extremely different amidst the pandemic. As a result, 16th December 2020 saw the biggest peak of 2020, 14% above normal, mostly due to traffic driven by live streaming of football on Amazon Prime and a Call of Duty game update. Conversely, the key festive days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day saw another dramatic drop in traffic, 22% and 14% respectively, in comparison to the proceeding weeks.

As we approach the anniversary of the lockdown, Zen has seen another spike on 11th March, with traffic reaching its highest point ever – 18% above previous peak.


Richard Tang, Chairman and Founder at Zen Internet, said: “This time last year, as millions across the country were told to stay at home, demand for online connectivity simply sky-rocketed to unprecedented levels. More than ever before people became dependent on the broadband that connects them with the outside world and reliable connectivity became an essential commodity.

 “Even as initial lockdowns eased last year, we didn’t witness a dramatic drop off in internet usage, as you may have expected. In fact, entertainment streaming services continue to drive record levels of traffic, but thanks to how we manage our network Zen was more than equipped to handle this, and more if it came to it. As we look towards brighter times post-pandemic, we expect this demand to remain, reinforcing the need for infrastructure investment and the continued rollout of full fibre broadband. This will give the UK the connectivity it needs to support long-term economic prosperity.”

Lisa Baker is Group Editor for the Need to See IT Publishing Group. Lisa writes about HR, Technology, Health, the Environment and Business.
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