Virgin Media reveals record 2020 data usage

Virgin Media reveals record data usage in 2020 – with customers stuck at home during the pandemic downloading an extra 2.8GB per day

  • Virgin customers downloaded an extra 2.8GB of data per day on average in 2020
  • This has made 2020 the company’s busiest year ever for home broadband usage 
  • Virgin households also spent an extra 21 hours watching television every month 

Brits have made longer phone calls, watched more TV and downloaded an extra 2.8GB of data per day in 2020 due to Covid-19 lockdowns, Virgin Media estimates.

Data usage has made 2020 the busiest year ever for home broadband use, according to the firm, which analysed data from more than six million customers.

Users spent an extra 21 hours on average watching TV each month – equivalent to 10 full days per year and enough to watch all four series of Netflix’s The Crown six times over.  

November was Virgin’s busiest month ever for network traffic, due to the second UK lockdown and the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles going on sale. 

Collectively, Virgin Mobile customers have spent an extra 1,605 years on the phone in 2020 compared to last year. 

The length of phone calls increased by 28 per cent on average on Virgin Mobile and 21 per cent on landline, due to social distancing and lockdowns. 

Virgin Media customers downloaded an extra 2.8GB of data per day on average in 2020, making it the busiest year ever for home broadband use

Phone calls lasted up to 87 per cent longer during the early part of the first national lockdown, according to the telco, which called 2020 ‘an extraordinary year’. 

‘We’ve seen unprecedented demand for our services across the board, whether that’s broadband traffic, binge-worthy box sets or people picking up the phone to check in with friends and family,’ said Jeff Dodds, chief operating officer at Virgin Media. 

‘The unexpected shift towards working, living, learning and socialising from home drove record-breaking traffic on our network and we provided a lifeline in lockdown.

‘Staying connected, informed, and entertained is more important than ever, and despite the additional demand and challenges we’ve faced this year, our network has played a key role in keeping the country connected to the things and people that matter most.’  

Households spent an extra 21 hours watching TV each month, with news channels seeing the biggest increase during the year

By downloading an extra 2.8GB of data per day on average each, Virgin Media customers burnt their way through 26,530 petabytes (26,530 million gigabytes) of data between them in 2020.  

In terms of upload traffic, data use jumped by 64 per cent across the year, driven by people working from home, playing video games online and connecting with friends and family via video calls.     

In November, customers downloaded an average of 17.3GB per day, enough to stream six hours of HD TV, send and receive 900 emails or play three hours of online games. 

The busiest ever day was Tuesday, November 10, when a total of 108 petabytes of data was consumed by Virgin Media customers.

Streaming and on-demand viewing time leapt by 26 per cent, with Sky One’s Brassic topping the list of most popular boxsets 

The busiest day ever was on Tuesday 10 November when a total of 108 Petabytes of data was consumed, linked to the launch of the Xbox Series X (left) and Series S (right) consoles and games including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War 

This was due to the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S consoles and the release of games including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Call of Duty:  Black Ops Cold War. 

Virgin said the nation has picked up the phone more than ever before due to lockdowns. 

The most mobile calls were made on March 17, shortly after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation about the first national lockdown, and the most landline calls were made the next day, March 18.  

Despite people spending more time at home, mobile data usage increased by nearly a quarter – 23 per cent – in 2020, with the biggest amount of data used on December 11.  

The number of text messages exchanged by Virgin customers also increased by 72 per cent from March 16 to 27 this year. 

Infographic from Virgin Media. The firm’s customers downloaded an extra 2.8GB of data per day

In terms of TV, viewing share of news channels in particular increased 56 per cent compared to last year to keep up to date with latest Covid developments, although customers turned to the other forms of content for some light relief.

Streaming and on-demand viewing time leapt by 26 per cent, with Sky One’s Brassic topping the list of most popular boxsets. 

April and May were record-breaking months for boxsets with nearly twice as many views when compared to 2019 (up 90 per cent). 

Paddington 2 was the most popular movie on TV, while England’s victory over Ireland during the international football friendly on 12 November was the most viewed sports moment of the year to date.  

Viewing of documentaries also increased 23 per cent in lockdown to while away the long hours spent indoors.  

During the presidential election in November, meanwhile, CNN became the second-most-watched news channel after the BBC.

CNN became the second-most-watched news channel after the BBC during the November US election

Virgin Mobile customers have collectively spent an extra 1,605 years on the phone compared to last year

BRITS WATCHED MORE THAN SIX HOURS OF TV A DAY DURING LOCKDOWN: OFCOM 

Britons devoured more than five hours of TV a day in lockdown amid a boom in subscription streaming services, Ofcom revealed in August. 

Staring at screens became a full-time job, with adults spending six hours and 25 minutes – nearly 45 hours a week – on ‘audio-visual content’ in April.

The figures, which also include time spent on computer screens and playing video games, paint a bleak figure for traditional TV channels.

‘Silver streamers’ over the age of 55 have flocked to the likes of Netflix which have already bewitched younger generations.

Ofcom said an ‘accelerated shift’ from TV channels to streaming services is likely to be one of the ‘most significant long-term impacts’ of the pandemic.

It found more than a third of adults ‘can see themselves no longer watching the main TV channels within the next three years’. This rose to more than half of those aged between 16 and 34.

The watchdog’s report said the ‘greatest growth’ during lockdown was enjoyed by streaming services, with existing subscribers watching more and ‘new users embracing [these] services for the first time’.

Ofcom said a staggering 12million adults had signed up to a new subscription service during lockdown, with three million doing so for the first time, including ‘notable rises among older demographics’. 

Nearly a third of those aged 55 to 64 watched streaming services in lockdown, compared with 25 per cent beforehand. 

The figure for over-64s rose by a quarter, to 15 per cent.

The Ofcom Media Nations 2020 report said the BBC, ITV and other traditional broadcasters enjoyed an initial surge in viewing figures at the start of lockdown, driven by news coverage. 

However, this fell away while streaming rivals maintained their momentum.

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