The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on us all. Our first thoughts go to the people who have sadly passed away from this indiscriminate virus, their family and friends. We must also not forget the selflessness of the many tens of thousands of NHS doctors, nurses, health care professionals and the many many unsung heroes.
At times like this, it’s difficult to think about business. However now more than ever as our lives have shifted online, the Internet and the connections that underpin this have become more critical than ever before in the history of the Internet.
Today, we’re seeing family catch up over Facetime, friends use apps like Houseparty, work colleagues on Teams and Zoom, and billions of WhatsApp and iMessages are being sent every week.
It’s hard to imagine what this crisis would have looked like just 10 years ago. 10 years ago, Facetime was yet to be released; WhatsApp was just 11 months old; Zoom, Houseparty, Teams and countless other apps were yet to be released.
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- Monday 16th March: The Prime Minister’s first daily press briefing: urges everybody in the UK to work from home and avoid pubs and restaurants from tomorrow, to give the NHS time to cope with the pandemic.
- Friday 20th March: Schools are ordered to shut after the school day finishes. PM orders all non-essential shops to shut from midnight, and everyone to work from home where they can.
Giganet have noticed a 32% traffic decrease since 16th March compared to the weeks prior to the coronavirus crisis in the week following the biggest restrictions to the country in generations. However, the start of this week has seen a slight uptick in usage, representing only an 18% decrease compared to a usual week.
Explanation of the data
As a business-to-business provider of connectivity, we’re noticing a drop off in usage compared to other ISPs who have a mostly residential focus. Where businesses are being shut, and staff working remotely, the traffic is being shifted from business connections to home broadband connections. However, we have not noticed a completely drop off in usage which may surprise a few, and this can be explained by the fact that many of our customer’s connections are supporting staff working from home, with usage of VPNs and other remote desktop applications kicking in, as well as our customers extending their office communication systems remotely. We also have many customers in what now can be described as Critical National Infrastructure; in Health, Finance and Government. There are also customers that have operations that cannot be done remotely, and therefore their offices, warehouses and factories are continuing.
The Prime Minister’s announcement that both schools, non-essential shops, retail, leisure businesses be shut, as well as all workers who can work from home do so, had the largest impact to our traffic levels, with Giganet seeing a 32% drop off in usage compared to a usual week. However as businesses and the country start to get used to the new ways of working, we’ve seen usage gradually increase back, representing only an 18% drop off compared to a usual week.
Delayed Launch of Giganet Residential
The news of coronavirus came ironically at a particularly exciting time at Giganet. We had planned the long awaited launch of our residential broadband services for the 1st March. Giganet would be only offering the very best connectivity for homes, providing only full-fibre broadband – UltraBEAM.
Our launch was eventually delayed until 9th March due to some final internal teething issues, but with coronavirus, and our main supplier Openreach announcing sever restrictions on March 24th, we had to sadly suspend all home broadband orders for the time being.
Openreach, who’s full-fibre broadband network we’re wholesaling, announced on 24th March that they were unable to scheduled any customer engineering visits that would require indoor works until at least the 1st June, and perhaps longer (depending on the Government advice). As the Openreach restriction would affect the vast majority of full-fibre broadband installs, we took the difficult decision to suspend all residential orders for the time being.
This is something that we are reviewing, and working out whether a waiting list and pre-order system would be something worth setting up. Equally, with these uncertain times, and the potential for the restrictions to be extended and in place for a longer period, it perhaps keeps things easier by suspending orders all together.
A number of our business orders are affected also, due to the Openreach restrictions, which a number of other carriers have also copied. This includes circuits using Colt, Glide, and Virgin Media. These business orders are progressing, however any works indoors are suspended until at least 1st June, but any external works can take place.
CityFibre are our only carrier who have yet to announce any major restrictions. However, to provide reassurance, their engineers are following all guidance issued by the Government, including social distancing, use of PPE, and ensuring that no works take place in any premises where anyone has symptoms or is currently in isolation.
Fibre Network Build Continues
With the significant restrictions on movement to most of us (all our staff are working from home), some may be questioning why there are full-fibre engineers digging up roads and installing fibre cables. In fact, we have mistakenly been called by members of the public to complain about engineers continuing to work given the “lockdown” (I say mistakenly, as Giganet currently doesn’t lay any fibre ourselves, we wholesale other carrier’s networks). The answer on why fibre network build continues can be broken down as follows:
- The Government has classified workers in the Communications industry as “key workers”
- All engineers are following social distancing guidelines, and have access to PPE
- The work cannot be done from home
- There are many customers in Critical National Infrastructure that urgently require connectivity (Giganet have recently helped one Health care company with a rapid installation of a CityFibre circuit in Leeds)
- Connectivity, now more than ever, needs to be built on robust, scalable and fast infrastructure, and we cannot afford to wait to under this crisis is over for the work to continue. Most of us are using broadband on copper wires that were never designed for the demands of the Internet and mission critical nature of the reliability. Fibre is build for the modern internet.