New Broadband Trends

The latest Broadband Insights Report is out from OpenVault providing statistics on average broadband usage at the end of the first quarter of 2023. In looking over the latest statistics I’m starting to see some interesting trends.

The average household used 560.5 gigabytes of broadband per month by the end of the quarter. That is the combination of 524.8.2 gigabytes of download and 35.7 gigabytes of upload. I also looked back over past years, and I think a new trend of broadband growth is emerging. Consider the following simple tables based upon the average household usage at the end of the first quarter since 2019.

1Q 2019 273.5
1Q 2020 402.5 147%
1Q 2021 461.7  15%
1Q 2022 513.8  11%
1Q 2023 560.5  9%

2020 growth was crazy due to the pandemic, and that level of growth is likely never going to be seen again absent some other similar catastrophic event. Since then, growth has slowed a bit year after year. We’re settling into a pattern where the average household is using approximately 50 gigabytes more per month than the year before.

This is easy to understand. More and more things we are moving online. We’re storing more pictures and files each year. We’re watching more videos, and those videos are growing more data intensive as we migrate to 4K video. Most of the software we use is now in the cloud. The devices in our house are often connected to the cloud.

This is starting to feel like a new trend. We used to have a paradigm that broadband usage doubled every 3-4 years. Once we’ve moved most of our data lives to the cloud, there is no longer the likelihood of explosive growth in household usage. I think more and more homes are settling into a mature stage of having moved to the cloud. The only thing that can upset this would be some new widely used data function that uses a lot more data, or another event similar to the pandemic.

The other trend is that people have wholeheartedly decided that they want faster broadband speeds. There are a lot of folks in the industry who will argue vehemently that households don’t need more than 25 Mbps – but it doesn’t matter what they think. Huge numbers of families believe they should have faster speeds and are upgrading. Consider the following table that compares the percentage of subscriptions to various speeds from the first quarter of 2021 and 2022.


1Q 2022 1Q 2023
Under 50 Mbps 7.6% 4.7%
50 – 99 Mbps 6.3% 4.8%
100 – 199 Mbps 17.0% 9.3%
200 – 499 Mbps 49.7% 41.1%
500 – 999 Mbps 6.1% 22.0%
1 Gbps+ 13.4% 18.1%
200 Mbps + 69.2% 81.2%

The percentage of homes that are subscribed to 200 Mbps or faster has skyrocketed in one year from 69% of homes to 81% of homes. Some of this increase comes from ISPs arbitrarily increasing speeds for customers, but a lot of the growth comes from people deciding to upgrade. This is clearly now a major trend.

The day of talking about 100 Mbps being an acceptable broadband speed is now behind us when 81% of the homes in the country are subscribed to speeds at least double that. As usual, the politicians who wrote the rules for the BEAD and other federal grants are far behind the real-life curve. Grants that allow somebody to build a network that can deliver only 100 Mbps are investing in obsolete technology. By the time those grant networks are constructed, any new networks that deliver only 100 Mbps will be years behind the rest of the broadband in the country. Let’s hope that broadband offices pay attention to this trend and require technologies that are forward-looking rather than buried in the past before they are even constructed.

6 thoughts on “New Broadband Trends

  1. Again I take issues with your rational. I can detect a “big ISP” customer on our network within a few seconds after they call. Marketing works, a large percentage of people in America believe if you have *any* issues with your internet connection the solution is a faster plan. More speed. Typical American response. We have been badgered with ads in every form for years and years already that you need to go faster, what you currently have is certainly not enough. The #1 line on most ISP’s troubleshooting sheet is “suggest that a faster plan would help”. If you make a sale you get a bonus.

    Using subscribed plan percentages to come up with what the public wants is 100% garbage data. Circular logic. Garbage in, garbage out.

    We have a successful network running here, with 75% of subscribers on 25×10 Mbps, and we have 50 and 100 Mbps plan options. Nobody is calling in for them. <1% of clients are raising tickets about slow internet. How is that possible? A rough data pull on our network shows currently 428 Gb of data average per subscriber, not up to your charts Q1 2023 number but close enough to be reasonable. I suspect that number is watered down a bit by the fact that we currently have 21% of our clients who are actually still on our legacy 10×3 plan. Those clients are a group of people that don't use streaming video so they offset our numbers a bit. I need to do some study and figure out what our average monthly usage is excluding that group.

    I think arriving at a metric to measure the satisfaction of an ISP user is going to be nearly impossible at scale so I don't know what to suggest. But I just repeat the question, "if your numbers are true, why aren't people calling us for faster plans?" It's not price. To date, I don't believe I have had one single person call for a faster plan and turn it down due to price, none. The network capacity is there, the price is right, it's one phone call away. Why aren't they calling?

    The easy answer is because their internet is working, it doesn't frustrate them. Which according to popular belief is impossible because they *only have 25 Mbps download speed*.

  2. I have a similar opinion on the quality of the data. We also have many hundreds of customers on 30×10 plans that despite every effort to get them to upgrade to 50,100,200Mbps plans we offer, they are quite happy and stay put. At those speeds, their streaming settles in to 1080p often enough per the streamer’s algorythms.

    We get most of our 100-200Mbps plans for new installs, usually a home purchase and someone moving out into the ‘country’ and are leaving a DOCSIS plant. As soon as your results start getting over 50Mbps or so, Netflix and the like start sending the 4k stream more often. I have no issue with this, the consumer is getting a better stream which the extra speeds offer and everyone is happy. The point I’m making is that when you cross certain thresholds there are automatic increases in average use because the devices consumers are using consume more data because the application’s internal tests and measurements ramp it up. That is at least one significant source of the change of use mentioned above and caused by the efforts of Netflix and the like to optimize their products. Excluse the ‘rush to work at home in Q1 2020’ increase which also seems obvious to explain. I admit, this supports that the consumers can use more data, but via completely different path and one that we can test, and in that testing we can get a bit closer to the truth.

    We’ve spent the money on marketing (and the upgrades to deliver more that is not utilized by many) to figure out that consumers actually don’t want the higher expense most of the time, they’re just told that’s the only way to get the service they want. They call in because some service runs poorly and they are told to upgrade the internet when the problem is more often a cheap wifi router that isn’t managed by the provider (ie, no diagnostics) or just plain bad coverage in the home. MOST consumers don’t care about 4k video, they want buffer free 1080p video. Most consumers just want it to be consistent and snappy, for their kids to not complain about their game console lagging out, and for their zoom calls to be smooth and reliable. They are interested in a certain price to performance ratio which we can deliver in the 30-60Mbps range.

    The huge uptik in plans over 200Mbps is frankly obvious, that’s what docsis and fiber plants offer in order to out compete the other in marketing. These vendors dare not offer a 50×10 plan on their docsis or fiber plant for a discounted price because most consumers would take it. It’s quite easy to show the increase in 200Mbps+ plans when all offerings below 200Mbps are removed.. That’s bad data.

    This is not consumer choice, this is market interference and like most other interference the unintended (I’m being generous here) consequences are bad for the consumer. Yes, the small % that legitimately want more do get the benefit of the Mbps arms race, but those masses who want less expensive cannot get it. The irony that in much of the country they can only get a completely inadequate 3-7Mbps DSL contrasts the places that cannot get 30-100M at a good price, they can only buy higher.

    • “”” It’s quite easy to show the increase in 200Mbps+ plans when all offerings below 200Mbps are removed.. That’s bad data “””

      That summarizes what I was trying to say. It’s no secret the big ISP’s have a large majority of the subscribers in the nation. So their plans are going to dominate any reports.

  3. Upload matters. QUICK upload speed, MORE data usage.
    Comcast’s faster upload speeds are currently limited to customers on xFi Complete, a package that sells for an additional $25 per month。 Those upgrades will initially support up to 2 Gbit/s in the downstream and 5x to 10x faster upstream speeds (up to 200 Mbit/s). But only 20% of comcast’s footprint available.

  4. Since the 1993 agreement between the state of Pennsylvania and Verizon for fiber I have DSL at 3.7 Mbps down and .7 Mbps up. I have been paying since 1994 and 29 years later they are stil taking out a fee and no fiber. Think I’ve paid for fiber? YOUR STATEMENT THAT ONLY 9% LACK 200MBPS IS WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Ken Schucht, Lewisto2wn, Pa.

    • The number is 19%, not 9%. That’s one out of five homes that are not subscribed to a speed of at least 200 Mbps. The numbers come from OpenVault and they are generally accepted in the industry as being pretty accurate. It’s not a hard number to believe once you accept that the cable companies have a huge share of the broadband market.

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