Large numbers of US Internet subscribers are using over 1TB a month for the first time as the pandemic continues to boost home-Internet usage, according to research released today by the vendor OpenVault.
“The power user category continue[d] to accelerate [in Q4 2020], with 14.1 percent of weighted average subscribers now consuming over 1TB of data per month, up 94 percent from 2019,” OpenVault’s report said. In Q4 2019, 7.3 percent of US-based subscribers used over 1TB. (The weighted figures include both users with data caps and users with unlimited plans.)
The 14.1 percent figure is also a big jump from Q3 2020, when OpenVault research found that 8.8 percent of broadband subscribers used at least 1TB per month. The 1TB figure is significant because AT&T and other ISPs impose monthly data caps of 1TB or less. Comcast raised its cap to 1.2TB starting in mid-2020, while Cox’s is now up to 1.25TB. People using 1TB on a capped service are at risk of paying overage fees, which generally cost $10 for each additional block of 50GB.
“With an entire year’s worth of data, the [Q4 2020 report] puts the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on broadband providers into proper context,” OpenVault wrote. “The explosion in data consumption during 2020 has established a new normal of bandwidth usage that is especially visible when compared with pre-pandemic time periods.”
What OpenVault calls “extreme power users”—subscribers using over 2TB per month—accounted for 2.2 percent of US-based Internet customers in Q4 2020. That’s a 120 percent jump over the 1 percent of customers who passed that mark in Q3 2020.
Data caps push usage down
OpenVault is a vendor that sells a data-usage tracking platform to cable, fiber, and wireless ISPs. Its customers include 150 service providers worldwide. The company says its products have been used by Internet providers to impose data caps via “usage-based billing” schemes since 2012, helping those ISPs generate “over $150 million in incremental revenue annually.” While Internet subscribers aren’t happy about those data caps and overage fees, OpenVault’s research on broadband usage may be interesting to both ISPs and users….[ ]