The Migration to Faster Speeds

The OpenVault Broadband Insights Report for the 2nd quarter of 2021 highlights the strength of customer demand for broadband.

The most interesting statistic is the migration of customers to faster broadband tiers. The following table shows the percentage of households subscribed to various broadband speed plans in 2020 and 2021.

June 2020 June 2021
Under 50 Mbps 18.4% 10.5%
50 – 99 Mbps 20.4% 9.6%
100 – 199 Mbps 37.8% 47.5%
200 – 499 Mbps 13.5% 17.2%
500 – 999 Mbps 5.0% 4.7%
1 Gbps 4.9% 10.5%

In just the last year, the number of households subscribed to gigabit broadband has doubled, while the number subscribed to slower speeds nearly cut in half. Many millions of homes upgraded to faster broadband plans over the past year.

OpenVault provides some clues as to why homes are upgrading to faster broadband. Consider the following table that shows the percentage of households using different amounts of total monthly broadband.

June 2018 June 2019 June 2020 June 2021
Less than 100 GB 51.6% 42.7% 34.2% 29.5%
100 – 499 GB 37.7% 39.5% 37.6% 38.6%
500 – 999 GB 8.9% 13.7% 19.4% 21.1%
1 -2 TB 1.7% 3.7% 7.8% 9.3%
Greater than 2 TB 0.1% 0.4% 1.0% 1.5%

The percentage of homes using less than 100 gigabytes of broadband per month has dropped by 43% over three years. At the same time, the number of homes using more than a terabyte of data per month has grown by 500% over three years. While there may be no direct correlation between having a faster broadband plan and using more broadband, total broadband usage is likely one of the factors leading residential customers to upgrade. Another big factor pushing upgrades is customers looking for faster upload speeds to support working and schooling from home.

The average household broadband usage in June 2021 was 433 gigabytes – which is the combined upload and download usage for the average American home. (405 GB download and 28 GB upload). To put that number into perspective, look at how it fits into the past trend of average broadband usage.

1st quarter 2018           215 Gigabytes

1st quarter 2019           274 Gigabytes

1st quarter 2020           403 Gigabytes

2nd quarter 2020         380 Gigabytes

1st quarter 2021          462 Gigabytes

2nd quarter 2021         433 Gigabytes

The second quarter 2021 usage is up 14% over 2020, but down compared to the first quarter of this year. OpenVault observed that broadband usage seems to be returning to seasonal patterns, and in past years it’s been normal for broadband usage to decrease during the summer.

The continued increased household usage has to be good news for ISPs like Comcast that are enforcing monthly data caps. OpenVault shows 10.8% of homes are using more than a terabyte of data per month. However, OpenVault also shows that having data caps influences broadband customers to curtail usage. In June, the average usage for homes with no data caps was 451.6 GB and 421.1 GB for homes with data caps.

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