Cresting the Wave: The Factors that Powered our Network Through the COVID-19 Surge

At the beginning of March, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into place, and the world changed for everyone. Hundreds of millions of Americans abruptly transitioned to working, educating, learning, and consuming all of their entertainment at home. Almost immediately, I was flooded with questions from my colleagues, consumers, reporters and policymakers asking whether the largest sustained spike in traffic that we’ve ever experienced would “break the Internet.” Today, we are seeing declines from the peaks we saw at the height of the surge, and I’m happy to report that our network has thrived throughout its greatest test.

From the moment the surge started, we’ve watched performance on our network more closely than ever before, conducting tens of millions of diagnostic speed tests and monitoring traffic patterns hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute. At the peak of the surge, in March and April, we saw traffic increase over 30 percent and as high as 60 percent in some areas, videoconferencing jumped as much as 285 percent and Wi-Fi use increased 36 percent among our Xfinity Mobile customers. 

So, what were the key factors that powered our network’s performance during this unprecedented surge?

Strategic, forward-looking investment

For years, we’ve made multi-billion-dollar investments in building capacity not just to meet customers’ current needs, but to stay well ahead of future demand. In the past three years alone, we’ve invested billions of dollars to deliver Internet service to more people and to ensure that our network has more than enough capacity to provide ultra-fast speeds, even under unprecedented demand.

Innovation

We haven’t just made our network stronger, we’ve made it much smarter, by investing in software development, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that delivers our customers a faster, more reliable experience every day. Through this work, we’ve developed one of the most advanced communications networks ever built. It requires a commitment to continuous innovation and dedicating the resources necessary to deliver the capabilities our customers need.

Frontline Heroes

When many Americans were heading home at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, our frontline technical teams were heading out into the field to ensure our customers had access to the fast, reliable services that families need to work and “go to school” from home. These teams added capacity to the network anywhere it was needed and performed critical installations for businesses like hospitals and health centers, all to ensure that Americans and their essential institutions had the network resources they needed.

In the coming weeks, we will share more details about each of these pillars and how we’re committed to strengthening them even further to withstand future challenges that our network will face.

As we and our customers settle into what might be a “new normal,” we are recommitting to the principles of building the strongest, fastest, smartest and most resilient network in the world. On a personal level, I am profoundly grateful to work with such a dedicated team of technologists – in particular, the brave men and women of our front-line technical teams who went into the field to support our customers when they needed it most.  

Tony Werner is President, Technology, Product, Xperience, Comcast Cable.